USA: Saks argues transgender employees not protected under US employment discrimination law

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Article
11 March 2015

USA: Saks settles transgender discrimination lawsuit with employee

Author: Patrick D Dolan, Hinshaw & Culberton LLP in Employment Law Observer (USA)

“Wilting Under A White-Hot Spotlight, Saks Settles Transgender Case,” 5 Mar 2015

Saks Fifth Avenue has settled a transgender discrimination case in Texas that garnered the company much unwanted attention…[The plantiff’s] attorney commented only that the parties "amicably settled the lawsuit" while Saks had no public statement about the settlement. So, what should companies learn from Saks' handling of…[this] issue?...First, make sure your employee policies are updated to provide the proper protection to all employees of various protected characteristics…Second, train managers and employees about being tolerant in the workplace. Third, instruct your managers and employees…about how to handle a worker's complaint about harassment. Fourth, stay current on workplace discrimination issues; transgender and gender identity protection as well as how to properly respond to accommodation requests by such employees (regarding bathroom needs and appearance issues…) are focal points of the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission]. And lastly, even legal arguments that may be tenable in response to an employee's lawsuit may not be best for your company…

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Article
29 January 2015

USA: Saks withdraws its motion to dismiss lawsuit by transgender employee

Author: Dawn Ennis, Advocate (USA)

“Saks Withdraws Motion to Dismiss Trans Worker's Lawsuit,” 26 Jan 2015

Saks'…lawyers have backed off their claim that [a] former employee…doesn’t have the right to sue the company for discrimination because she is transgender…Lawyers for Saks…say they will proceed with the[ir]…defense and that “the facts will demonstrate that Plaintiff’s allegations are wholly without merit, that Saks did not discriminate…, and that Saks’ policies and procedures are effective in ensuring an inclusive and diverse workplace free of discrimination and harassment”…The withdrawal came the same day the Justice Department filed [a]…brief in the case,…[saying]: “…SAKS maintains that Ms. Jamal cannot prevail on a Title VII sex discrimination claim that is based on her gender identity, particularly her transgender status. Not so. Discrimination against an individual based on gender identity is discrimination because of sex.”…NCLR legal director…[said], “We applaud Saks for correcting its position and recognizing that it has a legal obligation to treat transgender workers equally…”

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Article
9 January 2015

New York department store Saks ‘defends discrimination against transgender staff’

Author: Nicholas Reilly, Metro (UK)

…Saks Fifth Avenue has been slammed after appearing to claim that it has a right to discriminate against transgender employees…A lawyer for Saks wrote: ‘Plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed…for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted…Plaintiff’s sexual orientation and/or his sexual identity issues and/or his “gender identity” and/or his “gender expression” and/or his alleged disability are not protected categories under Title VII.’ In a later motion…Saks reiterated their…claims ‘…transsexuals are not a protected class under Title VII.’ …Saks’ attempt to dismiss the case came…days after US Attorney General…formally agreed with a 2012 decision by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission…that the Civil Rights Act does protect transgender people from discrimination…In her lawsuit, Ms Jamal also alleged that she was forced to use the male toilets…and was told by a manager to adopt a more masculine appearance…[and] that another worker called her a prostitute and threatened physical violence…

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Article
9 January 2015

Saks claims it has the right to discriminate against transgender employees

Author: Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg Businessweek (USA)

Is it legal to discriminate against an employee for being transgender? The Justice Department, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and some courts say no. But in a motion filed in federal court, Saks & Co. says yes. In its filing, Saks asks that an ex-employee’s discrimination lawsuit be dismissed “because transsexuals are not a protected class under Title VII,” the part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that bans employment discrimination based on race, religion, or sex…[T]he plaintiff, a transgender woman…alleges that she was instructed to “separate her home life from her work life” by behaving in a more masculine way, and ultimately was terminated because she spoke up…Saks’s motion denies the allegations…The LGBT civil rights group Human Rights Campaign [said] it was suspending Saks’s rating in HRC’s Corporate Equality Index in protest of Saks’s…legal arguments…[A]s Saks’s filing…illustrates, the EEOC’s or DOJ’s determination lacks the…force of a Supreme Court ruling or a…statute...

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