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Lawsuits target companies for transgender discrimination

EEOC files lawsuits against Florida and Michigan companies that allege transgender discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a pair of lawsuits on Thursday against companies in Florida and Michigan accused of discriminating against transgender employees. 

Both lawsuits cite violations under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which offers protections against sexual discrimination, in a move that marks the first time the federal government has used the law to protect transgender workers against private companies, according to the EEOC. 

A complaint filed Thursday comes against a Detroit-based funeral home and alleges it discriminated based on sex when the company fired an embalmer because she was transitioning from being a male to a female.

Amiee Stephens worked at RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes from October 2007 until last year when she notified the company she was undergoing a gender transition procedure, according to the complaint filed in Michigan federal court. Two weeks after Stephens notified her employer of the procedure, she was terminated for "proposing to do" what the company believed was unacceptable, according to the complaint. 

Prior to filing the lawsuit in U.S. District court a pre-litigation settlement could not be reached.

A call seeking comment from RG & GR Harris Funeral Homes was not immediately returned. 

The other complaint filed Thursday by the EEOC came against a Lakeland, Fla., based eye-care facility. The suit alleges the Lakeland Eye Clinic fired an employee after she notified the company she was transgender.  

"An employee should not be denied employment opportunities because he or she does not conform to the preferred or expected gender norms or roles of the employer or co-workers," Malcolm S. Medley, director for the EEOC's Miami District Office, said in a statement. "Protections must be afforded to such employees."

Lakeland Eye Clinic officials offered no immediate comment Thursday.

The lawsuits filed by the EEOC on Thursday come after a 2012 land mark decision by the EEOC where it ruled for the first time that discrimination against transgender employees is covered under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The ruling came after the commission sided with a woman in a complaint that she was denied work at a an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms lab in northern California.

In the suit -- Mia Macy v. U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder -- it was determined that the ATF was in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 title VII that offers protections from sexual discrimination.

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