The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) is ramping up its focus on addressing discrimination and harassment against transgender employees. In August 2023, the EEOC announced its new Strategic Enforcement Plan for fiscal years 2024-2028. In the Strategic Enforcement Plan, the EEOC outlined an increased focus in preventing and addressing discrimination and harassment against multiple categories of individuals, including employees with mental health concerns, racial minorities, and LGBTQ+ individuals.

The EEOC remains committed to those goals, and reminded the public of that when they announced a settlement with a New York pizzeria. According to the EEOC’s allegations, the owner of the pizzeria and multiple other staff members discriminated against their transgender coworker and harassed him when they made remarks about how he “wasn’t a real man,” asked about his genitalia and transition, and repeatedly purposely misgendered him. As part of the settlement, the pizzeria agreed to pay $25,000 and to undergo training on federal anti-discrimination employment laws, among other terms.

The settlement is a reminder to employers of the importance of having and enforcing EEO policies, both to protect employees and shield themselves from liability. Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. To comply, and to protect all employees from discrimination and harassment based on protected characteristics, employers should institute and enforce EEO policies and keep apprised of updates to anti-discrimination employment laws.

If you have questions or concerns about your company’s EEO policies, please contact any member of  Gardner Skelton’s employment team.