By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com July 15 2013 7:56 PM ET
In what advocates hail as a historic first, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled in favor of a transgender woman who was subjected to physical and verbal harassment at her job with a federal contractor in Maryland.
After a full investigation, the EEOC ruled that supervisors failed to intervene even when they were informed of the harassment, creating a hostile workplace and violating the employee's rights as protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The woman, who has not been publicly identified, filed a complaint with the EEOC last year, following a landmark decision last April declaring that Title IX of the Civil Rights Act extends to transgender people who are harassed on the basis of their sex. Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.
"We applaud the EEOC for conducting such a thorough investigation and interviewing so many witnesses to the anti-transgender harassment," said Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT organization Freedom to Work. "Coming just a few months after the EEOC issued its historic decision that transgender people are protected by Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, the EEOC’s reasonable cause determination in this case is, to our knowledge, the first time in history that the EEOC has investigated allegations of anti-transgender harassment and ruled for the transgender employee. This case shows that the EEOC takes very seriously its role in protecting LGBT Americans’ freedom to work."
That ruling came about because Mia Macy, a transgender military veteran and former police officer, was denied a job with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. After issuing Macy a job offer, Macy — who was presenting as a man in the early stages of the hiring process, informed her new employers that she would be reporting for work as a woman. When the ATF acquired proof of Macy's legal name change, Macy contends that the bureau stopped returning her calls and abruptly filled her position with someone less qualified. After investigating her claims, the Justice Department declared on July 8 that the ATF "discriminated against [Macy] based on her transgender status," reports Chris Geidner at BuzzFeed.
"I never thought in my life that it would be over," Macy told Geidner. "But to have it not only be over but to have them say, ‘Yes, unfortunately, your civil rights were violated. They did do this.’ To have that vindication — it’s surreal."
Read more about what these rulings mean for transgender Americans fighting workplace discrimination here.