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EEOC Files Lawsuit Against Rent-A-Center for Transgender Discrimination

Posted by Athena M. Herman | Jul 22, 2016 | 0 Comments

Transgender rights have become controversial topics in many areas across the country. However, for an employee who simply wants to go to work and do their job, discrimination based on their sexual orientation can not only make them feel unwelcome, it can also affect their ability to earn a living. Civil rights laws protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Now the EEOC is suing employers for discriminating against transgender employees.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that enforces civil rights laws against workplace discrimination. Historically, they have focused on discrimination based on race, religion, sex, age, disability, and national origin. However, in recent years, the EEOC has confronted the issue of discrimination for transgender employees.

According to the EEOC, failing to hire an applicant because they are transgender, or firing an employee because they are planning or have made a gender transition are examples of unlawful sex discrimination.

The EEOC has filed a lawsuit against Rent-A-Center for firing an employee because they are transgender. According to an EEOC report, managers at the Rantoul, Illinois Rent-A-Center location disapproved of an employee's gender transition. They found a pretext for firing the employee, who filed a complaint with the EEOC. Rent-A-Center disputes the claims, saying the employee was fired for reasons unrelated to her gender identity. After attempts to reach a settlement failed, the agency filed a lawsuit in the U.S. Court for the District of Illinois, Urbana Division.

Employees in Illinois are protected against sex discrimination in the workplace by both state and federal law. Sex discrimination is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Illinois Human Rights Act. Under the Human Rights Act, all individuals within Illinois are protected from discrimination in connection with employment based on sexual orientation. The definition for sexual orientation includes "gender-related identity, whether or not traditionally associated with the person's designated sex at birth.”

The EEOC also has a pending lawsuit against the Bojangles restaurant chain. According to the complaint, Jonathan Wolfe was a transgender woman working as a biscuit maker at the Bojangles Restaurant in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The EEOC alleged Wolfe was subjected to a hostile work environment because of her gender identity.

The complaint alleges Wolfe was repeatedly subjected to offensive comments, and told she was not welcome at the restaurant during days off if she was dressed as a woman. Wolfe was told she could not wear makeup or false fingernails. Managers told Wolfe that she should, “pray to God or go to hell,” and that “God made woman for man.” The lawsuit is seeking injunctive relief to prohibit Bojangles from engaging in future discrimination, as well as to seek compensation for Wolfe.

If you have been discriminated against by your employer, speak with an Illinois discrimination law attorney to make sure your rights are protected. Federal and state laws protect you from discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation. Our attorneys have successfully represented clients in discrimination lawsuits throughout the state of Illinois. If you have suffered physical, financial or emotional injury, contact your experienced Illinois discrimination attorneys at Benassi & Benassi.

About the Author

Athena M. Herman

Athena M. Herman practices in the areas of employment discrimination law, general employment law, and civil rights law...


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Practice Areas

Workers’ Compensation
Motor Vehicle Accident
Family Law/Dissolution
Personal Injury/Nursing Home Negligence/Medical Malpractice
Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment

Practice Areas

Employment Discrimination
Retaliation claims and Whistleblower in the Workplace
Class Action Lawsuit and Multi-Plaintiff Cases
Civil Rights Litigation
Employment Law