WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- Attorney General Eric Holder announced expanded protection for transgender government employees Thursday, allowing the Justice Department to file claims against employers accused of discriminating based on gender identity.
The expanded protections come from Holder's clarified interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits workplace discrimination due to racial, gender or religious bias. Holder will no longer maintain the previously established position that "Title VII's prohibition against discrimination based on sex does not encompass gender identity per se."
"This important shift will ensure that the protections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are extended to those who suffer discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status," wrote Holder.
"This will help to foster fair and consistent treatment for all claimants. And it reaffirms the Justice Department's commitment to protecting the civil rights of all Americans."
Holder noted the Congress responsible for the Civil Rights Act "may not have had [transgender] claims in mind when it enacted Title VII," however, "the Supreme Court has made clear that Title VII must be interpreted according to its plain text."
"The decision by Attorney General Holder will go a long way toward advancing equality for the transgender community," praised Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign. In addition to various civil rights causes, the Human Rights Campaign provides legal assistace for transgender employees seeking action against discriminatory employers.
"Transgender people continue to face some of the highest levels of discrimination in the workplace. We are thrilled to see the Department of Justice take this important step."