Shutt discusses issues impacting transgender employees during SC Bar Convention CLE

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA – Nekki Shutt presented a seminar covering employment issues impacting transgender employees. The program was part of this year’s South Carolina Bar State Convention.

Shutt began her talk by outlining problems transgender people face in the workplace, including job loss due to bias, verbal abuse and harassment, threats and social ostracization.

Among students, an overwhelming majority – 78 percent – are harassed or assaulted, according to The National Discrimination Survey.

Unemployment rates are higher in the transgender community, with double the percentage of joblessness compared to the country’s overall population, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found in a joint study.

Increasingly, federal appellate courts are recognizing discrimination against a transgender person as a form of sex discrimination.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also interprets discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification as a violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination.

Shutt discussed a number of key cases that are shaping those changes. This included a 2015 case, Isaacs v Felder Services, that the plaintiff lost but is crucial nonetheless because the trial court agreed with the EEOC position that an allegation of discrimination based on orientation is indeed an allegation of sex discrimination.

Sometimes, though, tolerance and attitude are as important as the letter of the law. Shutt cited a situation where a South Carolina teen was forced to remove makeup for a driver’s license photo because the Department of Motor Vehicles wanted him to appear more “masculine.”

There are many things employers can do to try to prevent discrimination, including creating dress policies that aren’t gender based. Employee handbooks should make it clear that transgender workers are protected. Health plans should cover benefits for transgender employees.

In addition to being fair, these policies also are good for business, Shutt said. Across the country, 82 percent of the Fortune 100 companies have non-discrimination policies that include transgender employees.

About Nekki Shutt

Shutt is a certified specialist in South Carolina employment law. Her practice covers issues such as employee rights and benefits under federal laws such as FMLA, ERISA and HIPAA. She also represents clients in cases involving wrongful termination and discrimination in the workplace.

She’s a frequent presenter at Bar CLE programs and a number of other seminars and training sessions.