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US store Saks says it has the right to discriminate against trans people

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A US clothing store has tried to dismiss a former employees’ transphobic discrimination case by claiming she has no right to be protected from discrimination.

Trans woman Lethyl Jamal, from Texas, says she was told by her employer to act more masculine at work, and was deliberately misgendered. She spoke up about the hostile work environment and was fired.

In a response filed by Saks’s attorney’s they claim Ms Jamal has no right to protection as “transsexuals are not a protected class under Title VII.”

They said: “Although Plaintiff’s discrimination claim is also couched in terms of ‘gender’ discrimination, Plaintiff’s Complaint makes clear that the gravamen of Plaintiff’s claims is discrimination based on Plaintiff’s status as a transsexual,’ and thus not covered by the Civil Rights Act.”

Title VII protects from discrimination on the grounds of sex, and has recently been interpreted to cover trans people as well. Attorney General Eric Holder sent out a memo emphasising this in December.

In their statement, they also said Ms Jamal was “alleging discrimination and harassment/hostile work environment because of “her [sic] gender, gender identity, and gender expression,””. The use of [sic] after each use of female pronouns to refer to Ms Jamal suggests that it is a mistake or error on her part.

While Saks’s own employee handbook states their employees are protected on the gender identity, Saks say they do not have to honor that as “is well-settled that policies in an employee handbook do not create a contract.”

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