Try to resolve it within your company
Many problems can be resolved internally, either by talking with the person who is causing a problem, or by using your company’s internal complaint process. Sometimes, a manager or coworker just needs to understand your point of view; they may not have met a transgender person before. Other times, a direct supervisor may be biased, but management will back you up. Sharing copies of the federal government guidance on trans workplace issues and relevant EEOC decisions (see below), although not binding on all employers, may help persuade management or HR.
Find out about your company’s equal employment opportunity (EEO) procedures, and whether your company’s EEO policy expressly covers gender identity. Even if it doesn’t, you can still file an internal complaint. These can often be resolved in days or weeks. Another possibility is having an attorney or legal organization approach your employers on your behalf to fix the problem. However, you are not required to use your company’s internal process before filing a complaint with federal, state, or local officials.
File a charge of sex discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
The main reason to file a charge of discrimination is to make ongoing discrimination stop. When the discrimination is not ongoing, filing a charge may help stop the same thing from happening to others, and sometimes can result in monetary remedies. Charges can also lead employers to change policies, discipline staff, or institute training.
A charge of discrimination must be filed with the EEOC or your state civil rights agency before going to court. Most charges are resolved without going to court. Generally a charge must be filed within 180 days of a discriminatory action, although there are some exceptions. (Note: Federal government employees generally need to file a complaint within 45 days.)
We recommend filing a charge in person at a regional EEOC field office. If you cannot do this, a charge may be filed by mail in the form of a letter that includes the following:
- Your name, address, and telephone number
- The name, address and telephone number of the employer
- The number of employees employed there (if known)
- A short description of the events you believe were discriminatory
- When the events took place
- Why you believe you were discriminated against (e.g., because of your sex)
- Your signature
Charges cannot be filed online or by phone. The EEOC has an information hotline (1-800- 669-4000) and an online assessment tool to help you determine how and where to file. For details on filing charges, visit EEOC’s website: http://eeoc.gov/employees/howtofile.cfm. The law protects you against any threats or retaliation by your employer for filing a charge.
The EEOC will generally either ask you and your employer to take part in mediation. If the case is not sent to mediation or mediation doesn’t resolve the case, the EEOC will investigate the charge. Then, the EEOC agency will either find a violation of the law and try to reach a settlement between you and your employer, or will issue a “Right-to-Sue” letter permitting you to file a lawsuit in federal court.
File a lawsuit
You must file an EEOC charge and receive a Right-to-Sue letter before you can file a federal lawsuit. You can request a Right-to-Sue letter immediately when you file your charge, but unless you have a lawyer it is not usually better to let the agency try to resolve the charge first. You must file a lawsuit within 90 days from the day you receive the EEOC’s Right-to-Sue letter.
To file a lawsuit based on state or local law, you do not need to go through the EEOC process first. Sometimes, however, you may need to go to your state civil rights agency first.
This type of lawsuit is complex and you will generally need to hire a lawyer to help you. Deadlines are very important, so you should begin looking for a lawyer early in the process.
If your employer contracts with the federal government, you should file a complaint directly with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/pdf/pdfstart.htm).
File a complaint with a state or local civil or human rights agency
State and local human rights agencies are responsible for enforcing state and local laws prohibiting bias based on sex or gender identity or expression. The Department of Justice keeps a list of contact information for state human rights agencies here: http://www.justice.gov/crt/legalinfo/stateandlocal.php.
Human rights agencies may have different procedures, and contacting the office for your area is the best way to learn more about who to contact and how to file a complaint.