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Deadnaming, derogatory comments were sex-based harassment, EEOC lawsuit says

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued an Illinois hog farm Thursday, alleging it ran afoul of federal nondiscrimination law when a co-owner deadnamed and made derogatory comments about a transgender employee (EEOC v. Sis-Bro, Inc.).

The Sis-Bro, Inc., representative made frequent, derogatory comments about the employee’s gender identity and refused to call her by her name, referring to her by her former name, EEOC claimed. The co-owner also allegedly criticized her use of employer-provided health insurance and leave for gender-affirming care.

The commission’s lawsuit also alleged the employer knew a co-worker was harassing the employee and failed to put a stop to the conduct.

EEOC has long taken the position that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition of sex discrimination also outlaws discrimination and harassment based on gender identity — a stance the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in 2020.

The agency has continued to enforce that position and last year proposed guidance on the topic. Among other things, the proposal said, intentional and repeated use of a name or pronoun inconsistent with an individual’s gender identity would amount to sex-based harassment, as would denial of access to a bathroom or other sex-segregated facility consistent with an individual’s gender identity. The public comment period for the proposal closed Nov. 1, 2023.

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