Attorney General Jeff Sessions said transgender people are not protected from employment discrimination through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in a memorandum obtained by Buzzfeed. This withdraws an Obama-era memorandum that interpreted the law to encompass gender identity in its definition of sex.
California’s transgender population will remain protected against workplace discrimination through state law, but nationally employees without a shield through state or local law will no longer be protected from discrimination based on their gender identity.
Sessions’ memo said: “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination encompasses discrimination between men and women but does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.”
The memo, issued Wednesday, also states the Justice Department will “continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals.”
In reaction, the Oakland-based Transgender Law Center issued a statement:
“This is a vicious action intended to cause confusion where there was none, with the goal of singling out transgender people and making it harder for us to survive and thrive in this country,” wrote Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center.
California is one of 20 states, along with Washington, D.C., that has a law or policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace.
In 2012, California’s Gender Nondiscrimination Act amended the California Fair Employment and Housing Act to explicitly include the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” as protected categories for housing and employment rights.
However, this law does not apply to federal workers located in California, according to the Transgender Law Center’s website.
The law center is prepared to take the administration to court over the issue.
“The Attorney General does not have the power to change clearly established law, only to enforce it,” Hayashi said. “Transgender Law Center’s 2012 and 2015 cases on behalf of Mia Macy and Tamara Lusardi, along with extensive case law, firmly established that transgender workers are protected from discrimination under Title VII.”
Sessions’ move arrives on the back of the Justice Department requesting a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit filed against Trump’s proposed ban on transgender people serving in the military. Trump’s memo to the Department of Justice last month asked for an implementation plan for the ban to go into effect by next March.