An hour with EEOC Commissioner Charlotte A. Burrows

Part 2 of 2: LGBT Concerns

In qnotes’ previous issue, I shared that I was invited to attend a “Meet and Greet” with one of the nation’s five Employment Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) commissioners, Charlotte A. Burrows, in the EEOC’s downtown Raleigh, N.C., office. I received the invite since I am an officer of the Raleigh Business and Professional Network, Raleigh’s National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s affiliate chapter.

In Part 1 I summarized how the meeting was structured and six high priority areas that the EEOC was working on which was shared by Burrows. Since I am a diversity consultant capable of handling all areas of diversity, but with a deep expertise in the LGBT workplace and marketplace, I will expand on how this plays out here.

The most important basic point raised by Burrows was that even though sexual orientation and gender identity are not explicitly delineated as “protected classes” in Title VII (The Civil Rights Act of 1964), the EEOC is very open to pursuing complaints in these areas. At the federal level, there have been an increasing number of court cases where the ruling is that employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is assumed within the “sex” area of Title VII.

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Burrows then mentioned two specific cases in the sexual orientation and gender identity realms:

1. In the 7th District Court Case Warnether A. Muhammad vs. Caterpillar Inc. (bit.ly/23LC95h), the court initially took the position that discrimination based on sexual orientation could not be used by the plaintiff suing using Title VII. But on appeal from the EEOC, though Muhammed lost his case on other grounds, the panel did reverse its position about the invalidity of using sexual orientation discrimination in cases like these.

2. In the case of Tamara Lusardi (a transgender woman) vs. the US Army, (bit.ly/1s3fuFm) the EEOC ruled that prohibiting Tamara from using the restroom identified with her gender constituted gender discrimination under the law.

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Burrows strongly made the point that the EEOC is truly “open for business” to pursue discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and that over the past few years, over $3M in fines and settlements in these areas have been recorded. She further shared the statistic that in the LGBT area, about 80 percent of the cases coming to them are around sexual orientation and about 20 percent around gender identity.

During Q&A when I inquired about the dichotomy between the EEOC pursuing these cases in the light of no national ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that includes protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity, she replied that a congressional passed ENDA law would certainly make this discussion much more “cut and dry” and send a very strong national message. However, even with the current absence of an ENDA, the EEOC will certainly still pursue LGBT discrimination cases.

As stated in part 1, I am very grateful for the EEOC in fighting employment discrimination for all people. And even in my own research, I later found this very useful resource from the EEOC to assist people in addressing discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It is available at 1.usa.gov/1Omlsf1.

— Stan Kimer, Total Engagement Consulting by Kimer, is a Raleigh, N.C.-based business consultant who provides corporate and organizational training on a wide range of diversity topics including transgender diversity.

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Posted by Stan Kimer

Stan Kimer is the owner of TotalEngagement Consulting by Kimer and has published “A 2015 More Comprehensive Outline on Human Resources Support for Transgender Employees” which can be found online at workforcediversitynetwork.com/res_articles_ ComprehensiveOutlineHumanResourcesSupportTransgenderEmployees_ kimer.aspx. He can be reached at stan@totalengagementconsulting.com.