Duluxe Financial Services, Inc., one of the nation’s largest check printing companies and located in Shoreview, Minn., agreed to pay $115,000 in an employment discrimination lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a transgender former employee. United States District Court Judge Ann Montgomery approved the consent decree on Wednesday which includes sweeping changes for the company. The suit marks an important trend in employment law that effectively prohibits discrimination based on gender identity nationwide.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as Jillian Weiss and Ezra Young of the Law Office of Jillian T. Weiss, P.C., filed suit against Deluxe in June 2015 on behalf of Britney Austin. Austin alleged discrimination and harassment at a Deluxe call center in Arizona. The allegations against the company included not updating company information to reflect Austin’s gender, prohibiting her from using the appropriate restrooms, and name-calling and harassment by management and staff.
In the settlement, Deluxe has agreed to apologize to Austin, remove trans-specific exclusions in the company health plans, implement company-wide policies banning discrimination based on gender identity, carry out training for human resource employees and management, and allow transgender employees to use restrooms “commensurate with their gender identity.”
The company also agreed to EEOC monitoring for three years to ensure compliance.
“Transgender people should never face the bias I endured in the workplace. We should be able to earn a living and provide for our families without fear of discrimination for being who we are,” Austin said in a statement. “I am so relieved to come to this settlement with my former employer, put this case behind and move on with my life. I hope by standing up for my rights I will help improve the workplace for other transgender employees in the future.”
Though Minnesota law has prohibited discrimination based on gender identity since 1993, the Deluxe offices where Austin said the harassment and discrimination occurred was located in Arizona which has no employment nondiscrimination protections for transgender workers (or LGBQ workers).
For that reason, the EEOC filed the lawsuit. Under the Obama administration, the EEOC has ruled that discriminating against transgender employees constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Over the last few years, the EEOC has been filing cases on behalf of transgender employees, a trend some observers have noted means a default nationwide ban on discrimination in employment based on gender identity.
“We are extremely grateful to the EEOC for taking on this important case on behalf of our client and working side by side with us to achieve a settlement that marks yet another Title VII victory for transgender employees,” Weiss said in a statement. “The Jillian T. Weiss Law Firm is also excited to have achieved the first major Americans with Disabilities Act victory on behalf of a transgender employee. Discrimination against transgender employees is illegal under federal law everywhere in the United States,” she added.
“This case adds to the growing number of EEOC victories with the same conclusion.”
Weiss continued: “Deluxe Financial Services, Inc. has now recognized, to its credit, the importance of ensuring that company managers and employees follow the law by treating transgender employees with fairness and respect moving forward. It is our hope that other companies will learn from this example.”
Here’s the full consent decree: