Last month, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals broadened legal protections for transgender workers, ruling in Williams v. Kincaid that gender dysphoria is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the Court’s decision, employers in the Fourth Circuit (Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina) must provide reasonable accommodations to employees suffering from gender dysphoria. Such accommodations might include offering leave for medical procedures or hormone therapy, as well as modifications to workplace bathroom or dress-code policies.
The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment and access to government services. According to the American Psychiatric Association, gender dysphoria describes an uncomfortable conflict between a person's assigned gender and the gender with which the person identifies.
William v. Kincaid involved Kesha Williams, a trans woman with gender dysphoria who was assigned to men’s housing in a Virginia prison. Williams experienced delays in medical treatment for her gender dysphoria, harassment by other inmates, and persistent and intentional misgendering and harassment by prison deputies. Williams sued several individuals associated with the prison, alleging that their treatment of her was a violation of the ADA. Her claim was dismissed by a district court, but the Fourth Circuit reversed and held that the ADA did not exclude protections for individuals with gender dysphoria, citing the medical community’s updated understanding of gender dysphoria since the passage of the ADA.
Even though the Fourth Circuit’s decision is binding law only in its constituent states, some legal experts have said that the Court’s decision will be relied on by courts outside the Fourth Circuit. Still, many observers believe that other federal appeals courts will rule differently than Williams in the future, leading to a circuit split that could only be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Teukolsky Law has handled numerous employment cases on behalf of transgender individuals, including cases where the employer has failed to provide accommodations for employees undergoing hormone therapy and gender-affirming surgery. Contact Teukolsky Law today for a free consultation.
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Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.