by Caroline Hogan
Originally published: May 31, 2017
Of late, we have recently written quite a bit about the ever-changing legal landscape regarding protections for LGBTQ employees. Most of the authority we explored involved whether or not sexual orientation (as well as gender identity and expression) are protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). Now, for the first time, a federal district court has ruled that a transgender employee may proceed with her discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While courts applying Title VII have held that sex discrimination prohibits anti-transgender discrimination in the workplace, this case is unique because it held that a transgender employee, with gender dysphoria, may also be protected by the federal disability law.
Kate Lynn Blatt, a transgender woman, claimed she was subjected to discrimination and harassment while working at a hunting and fishing retailer. She additionally claimed that the retailer terminated her employment in retaliation for complaining about her treatment. Ms. Blatt sued under both Title VII and the ADA, which protects employees with disabilities.
While the ADA is a remedial statute designed to eliminate discrimination against the disabled, the Act explicitly exempts from its definition of disability “transvestism, transsexualism [and] gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments.” The judge distinguished such conditions from gender dysphoria, “which goes beyond merely identifying with a different gender and is characterized by clinically significant stress and other impairments that may be disabling.”