Deluxe Financial Services Corp., a Shoreview, Minn.-based check-printing and financial services corporation, violated federal law by subjecting a transgender employee to sex discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has charged in a lawsuit.

This is the third lawsuit filed recently by the EEOC alleging discrimination on the basis of gender identity/transitioning/transgender status. In April, 2015, a Florida eye clinic paid $150,000 to settle an EEOC lawsuit filed in September 2014, seeking relief for an employee who had been transitioning to female; also in September 2014, the EEOC filed suit seeking relief for an employee of a Detroit area funeral home fired for transitioning from male to female.

According to the EEOC’s suit against Deluxe Financial Services, Britney Austin had performed her duties satisfactorily in the company’s Phoenix offices throughout a lengthy tenure there. However, after she began to present at work as a woman and informed her supervisors that she was transgender, Deluxe refused to let her use the women’s restroom. Supervisors and coworkers subjected Austin to a hostile work environment, including hurtful epithets and intentionally using the wrong gender pronouns to refer to her.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination, including that based on transgender status and gender stereotyping, according to the EEOC lawsuit. This also includes subjecting an employee to different terms and conditions and a hostile work environment because of sex.

The EEOC filed suit against Deluxe Financial in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, where the headquarters of the company are located (Case No. 15-cv-02646 D. Minn.), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks both monetary and injunctive relief.

The lawsuit announced is part of the EEOC’s ongoing efforts to implement its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP), which it adopted in December 2012. The SEP includes “coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions, as they may apply” as a top commission enforcement priority. The suit is also consistent with federal case law and follows two significant decisions of the EEOC issued in its adjudicatory capacity in federal sector employment disputes. In federal sector enforcement, the same laws apply but the EEOC has appellate adjudicatory authority.

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