EEOC wins most of discovery dispute in transgender case

In July, I posted about a discovery dispute in the transgender lawsuit going on in the Detroit area. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued a funeral home for discriminating against Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman.

The Defendants, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, had served discovery on the EEOC, seeking intimate details about Ms. Stephens's transition, including whether she currently had male or female genitalia, and her psychological condition. The EEOC asked the court to block the discovery.

I said that the discovery did seem intrusive but that it was probably par for the course in an employment case. Law360 (paid subscription required) reports this morning that the court ruled in the EEOC's favor on all of it, with the exception of two interrogatories asking for information about when Ms. Stephens's co-workers would have become aware of her transition.

One important point that was clarified for me in the court's decision is that the EEOC's "transgender discrimination" claim has been dismissed, and only the "gender stereotyping" claim is going forward. The court acknowledged that if the transgender discrimination claim were still alive, then the more-intrusive discovery might be justified. On the other hand, a stereotyping claim is based only on the perceptions of the employer, so it's not necessary to delve into those intimate, and potentially embarrassing, issues.

We'll continue to follow this very interesting case of first impression.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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