Transgender Discrimination Claims Continue to Evolve; Employers’ Should Take Note
On October 23, 2021, the Northern District of Illinois partially denied a motion to dismiss a transgender female police officer’s lawsuit, filed under federal civil rights law 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 740 ILCS 23/5(a) of the Illinois Civil Rights Act.
In Arriaga v. Dart, No. 20 C 4498, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 204467, (N.D. Ill. Oct. 23, 2021), Selene Danielle Arriaga, a transgender female police officer, filed suit after her employer disclosed her transgender status and private medical information and because her employer allegedly failed to protect her from harassment and discrimination based on her transgender status. In declining to dismiss the lawsuit, the judge cited U.S. Supreme Court case law holding that in some circumstances, a failure by municipal employers to train public employees on workplace violations for which the employer is on notice, may be tantamount to an official policy condoning the violations. Connick v. Thompson, 563 U.S. 51, 1 (2011).
The Arriaga holding suggests claims for discrimination against transgender individuals under federal and state civil rights laws may be viable in the state and local government workplace. Recent decisions similar to Arriaga not only address the standards for bringing discrimination claims based on transgender status, but also provide insight as to employer acts or omissions that can prevent or trigger such claims.
Federal and state laws recognizing discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in the workplace are ever-changing in their application and interpretation. To stay prepared for these changes, employers should regularly evaluate what policies and procedures they have in place to ensure they remain in compliance with the laws and create inclusive work environments.