Issues: Employment

Despite major gains in LGBT civil rights, our fundamental right to fairness in the workplace is precarious. Gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status are all used to demote, deny, and even fire perfectly capable and qualified employees. In 33 states, it is legal to fire someone based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, and in 37 states, there are no state laws that protect those who are fired based on their gender identity. Through NCLR’s case work, public advocacy, and public education, we are committed to ending discrimination in employment for all LGBT individuals. Across the states, in private corporations, and in local public jurisdictions, we inform and counsel important cases which lead to the adoption of non-discrimination policies.

news & opinion


NCLR Applauds House and Senate Introduction of ENDA
Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell
4.25.13—(San Francisco, CA, April 25, 2013)—Today, a bi-partisan group of Senators and House members introduced the fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would prohibit most employers across the country from discriminating against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender workers. In the Senate, the bill was introduced by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mark Kirk (R-Ill), and Susan Collins (R-ME). In the House of Representatives, the bill was introduced by Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and joined by more than 100 co-sponsors.


NCLR Applauds Federal Agency Ruling Protecting Transgender Workers
Statement by NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell, Esq.
4.24.12—Yesterday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing federal laws against workplace discrimination, issued a landmark ruling that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects transgender workers. The EEOC held that discrimination against a transgender employee on the basis of the employee’s gender identity is prohibited sex discrimination under federal law. While a number of federal courts have issued similar decisions, this is the first time the EEOC has ruled on this issue.

Press Release

Plaintiffs in Howe v. Haslam Respond to Ruling
1.30.12—On January 25, 2012, Chancellor Carol L. McCoy of the Davidson County Chancery Court in Nashville issued a preliminary order in Howe v. Haslam. Howe is the highly publicized case challenging the Tennessee Legislature’s enactment of HB 600, which overturned a Metro non-discrimination ordinance by prohibiting municipalities and counties, including local school districts, from enacting local laws or school policies that protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people against discrimination. The order gives the plaintiffs in the case 30 days to provide additional proof that they have been harmed by the law to avoid having the case dismissed.

Press Release

NCLR Joins Congress in Calling on President Obama to Restore Employment Protections and Religious Freedoms Statement by NCLR Federal Policy Director Maya Rupert
06.21.11—Today, Representatives Robert C. "Bobby" Scott (D-VA), John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Barney Frank (D-MA), and Melvin L. Watt (D-NC) called on President Barack Obama to restore essential employment protections and religious freedom. The request comes on the 70th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt issuing Executive Order 8802, which prohibited employment discrimination by defense contractors based on race, creed, color, or national origin.

from the docket

Victory! (California)

Sulpizio and Bass v. San Diego Mesa College
Lorri Sulpizio was the Head Women’s Basketball Coach at San Diego Mesa College, and her domestic partner, Cathy Bass, assisted the team and served as the team’s Director of Basketball Operations for over eight years. Despite Sulpizio’s and Bass’s dedication and demonstrated track record of success leading the women’s basketball program at the community college, Mesa officials discharged both coaches at the end of the 2007 academic year after Coach Sulpizio repeatedly advocated for equal treatment of female student-athletes and female faculty, and following publication in a local paper of an article identifying Sulpizio and Bass as domestic partners.

Loss (Utah)

Etsitty v. Utah Transit Authority
Despite her spotless employment record, Krystal Etsitty, a transgender woman, was fired from her job as a public bus driver by the Utah Transit Authority (UTA), solely because the UTA feared that members of the public might be offended by Etsitty’s transgender identity.

Loss (Nevada)

Jespersen v. Harrah's Casino
NCLR and the Transgender Law Center filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit supporting Darlene Jespersen, who was fired by Harrah's Casino after she refused to comply with a new policy requiring female employees to adopt a hyper-feminine appearance. Harrah's policy required all women to wear heavy makeup applied in exactly the same way every day, to match a photograph held by the supervisor.

program highlights

Developments in Workplace Protections for LGBT Employees

On September 13, 2008, NCLR Staff Attorney Ilona Turner, Esq. attended the American Bar Association Second Annual CLE Conference on Labor and Employment Law along with other labor and employment lawyers. Ilona presented on a panel entitled “Expanding Concepts of Discrimination: Sex, Sexual Orientation, Sex Stereotyping, Gender Non-Conformity and Transgender Claims.” This panel looked specifically at state and local legislation banning discrimination against LGBT people and how recent expansion of Title VII coverage based on sex stereotyping and gender identity have affected these anti-discrimination policies.

Recently, the employment and labor law landscape has changed in order to include the LGBT community including changes to Title VII coverage, recent same-sex sexual harassment claims, and expanding benefits for LGBT employees. This conference was an excellent opportunity for discussing of LGBT specific issues within employment and labor law, focusing specifically the harmful impact of sex stereotyping and gender identity discrimination. The panel also provided attendees with an in-depth look at the difficulties faced by LGBT individuals in the workplace and what is being done to combat those inequities, especially through litigation.


Equal Opportunity for Transgender People

On August 27, 2008, NCLR’s Director of Projects and Managing Attorney Liz Seaton made a presentation on “Equal Opportunity for Transgender People” at the 2008 National Equal Opportunity Professional Development Forum sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and held in Crystal City, Virginia. The program covered the basics of transgender issues, and overview of non-discrimination laws, and an interactive discussion about best practices for ensuring fair treatment based on gender identity and expression in at job training centers and workplaces. In attendance were 100 equal opportunity and human resources professionals from around the country who work with Job Corps programs, programs sponsored under the federal Workplace Investment Act, and state and local human rights agencies.

click here for more information on the 2008 National Equal Opportunity Professional Development Forum


NCLR’s Legal Director Gives Historic Testimony before Congress on Need for An Inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act

On June 26, 2008, NCLR'S Legal Director Shannon Price Minter was among those who testified before Congress about the devastating and pervasive problem of gender identity discrimination. The hearing on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee Hearing was titled "An Examination of Discrimination Against Transgender Americans in the Workplace." This is the first time that a congressional subcommittee has taken up the specific problem of discrimination against transgender Americans, and we are hopeful that this represents a significant step towards a federal solution to this nationwide problem. NCLR firmly believes that the LGBT community needs a unified bill, one that covers both sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in the next Congress which begins in January, 2009 following the November elections. To see the hearing line-up, watch an archived hearing webcast, or download witness testimony, click here.

click here to download NCLR Legal Director Shannon Minter's written statement to the Subcommittee (pdf)

click here to read NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell's blog on the eve of the hearing

The hearing took place approximately a month after the creation of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, co-chaired by Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis. 2nd) and Barney Frank (D-Mass. 4th) and founded with a bi-partisan membership.

click here to read more about the LGBT caucus from

click here to read more about NCLR's work in securing a fully inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

publications & downloads

State Laws That Prohibit Discrimination Against Transgender People

A state-by-state look at non-discrimination laws that explicitly protect transgender people.

Advancements in State and Federal Law Regarding Transgender Employees

A Compliance Guide for Employers and Employment Law Attorneys

Federal Gender Non-Conformity Cases

Federal Cases Recognizing that Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Non-Conformity and/or Transgender Status is a Form of Discrimination on the Basis of Sex

Human Rights Ordinances in Florida Municipalities

A chart outlining the municipalities in Florida that have Human Rights Ordinances and the extent of their coverage


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