The EEOC recently sued a bank for requiring a transgender employee who lives and identifies as male, to dress as a woman because the bank claimed it would be confusing to customers, although there was no evidence any customers complained. A bank vice president told the employee that the bank might consider employing the employee as a man, if he underwent surgery. The bank also requested that the employee sign a statement agreeing to comply with the bank’s “female dress code” and to room with a female employee on overnight business trips. The employee refused to sign the statement and was fired.
The case was filed under Title VII, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination based on transgender status and gender stereotyping. The bank’s actions would also be illegal under Oregon law, which not only prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but also includes an exemption to dress codes that would likely be implicated based on these claims.
It is not clear how, or if, the bank will defend the claims. It is clear, however, that the bank and its management need some significant diversity and sensitivity training.