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Supreme Court asked to take up transgender discrimination case

Many transgender Americans fear that some of the gains they've made in protecting their rights in all aspects of their lives could be at risk.

Now the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is asking the Supreme Court to take up a case regarding a transgender employee who was fired. The DOJ is arguing that the federal civil rights law that bans discrimination in the workplace based on gender doesn't apply to transgender people who allege employment discrimination based on their gender identity.

The case involves a transgender employee who was fired by a funeral home because she was dressing as a woman to match her gender identity after she transitioned from being a man. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) successfully argued her case, asserting that discrimination based on gender identity is actually sex discrimination, which is illegal under federal law.

The EEOC won in an appellate court. However, the DOJ claims, "The court of appeals misread the statute and this Court's decisions in concluding that Title VII encompasses discrimination on the basis of gender identity."

The Supreme Court hasn't yet decided whether it will hear the case. If it does, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has said that it will represent the woman.

Protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees in the workplace still vary by state. Arizona has more protections for its LGBT residents in general than some other states. However, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Arizona "does not prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

In many cases, private employers are ahead of the law in recognizing the right of employees to be free from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Some employers, unfortunately, won't offer employees these protections unless they're legally mandated to do so. Arizonans can and should determine what their legal options are when they've been the victims of employment discrimination.

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