Illinois hog farm faces lawsuit over bias against transgender worker

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By Staff
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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.

Additionally, the commission’s lawsuit alleged the employer knew a co-worker was harassing the employee and failed to put a stop to the conduct. The targeted employee faced frequent derogatory comments and unwanted sexual advances toward her in the workplace, according to court documents. The behavior continued until she was forced quit.

“Transgender workers, like all workers, deserve to have a safe workplace free from harassment. Employers have the responsibility to prevent and address harassment based on gender identity, but the EEOC is ready to enforce federal law when they fail to do so,” Greg Gochanour, regional attorney for the commission’s Chicago district office, said in a statement.

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.

Nathan Owens contributed to this article.

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