January 11th, 2013

Minnesota is one of the few states to ban employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Nationally, sexual orientation is not a prohibited reason for firing someone or refusing to hire them, but the Minnesota Human Rights Act extends protection to employees “having or being perceived as having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one’s biological maleness or femaleness.” This law goes a step further than federal law prohibiting discrimination based on gender, which has typically been applied only when the reason for the discrimination is one’s biological sex, although that has been changing slowly as well.

In a recent case, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals put this issue to the test, as they reviewed the case of a transgender person who claimed that they were denied a job because of their sexual orientation. In this case, the applicant said that she was denied because her appearance did not match the gender on her application, since she arrived at the interview dressed in a masculine way, but filled out the application according to her biological sex.

The person was applying for a position as a package handler for UPS, who says that they denied the job because of the person’s work history, which is a major factor in determining if someone will be a long term or short term employee. The employer said that they never realized that the applicant was transgender and that sexual orientation and gender were not a factor in the decision. The court agreed with UPS and reinforced the important notion that it is acceptable to deny an applicant who is a member of a protected class, but that the denial must be on legal grounds.

Source: Business Management Daily, “There’s just no guessing about cross-dressing; Focus hiring on qualifications, not appearance,” Jan. 7, 2013.

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