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January 12, 2015

Saks Fifth Avenue denies right to sue for transgender discrimination

The retailer filed a motion to dismiss a transgender ex-employee's lawsuit

Saks Fifth Avenue has responded to a lawsuit filed by a former employee alleging discrimination for being transgender - by refusing to admit gender identity as cause for discrimination, Businessweek reported. 

Saks filed a motion to dismiss on Dec. 29, 2014. Title VII of the Civil Rights Amendment of 1964 covers discrimination on grounds of sex but does not explicitly mention transgender people. 

Leyth O. Jamal was working in a Saks outlet in a Houston mall. Her complaint alleges being forced to use the men's bathroom, being purposely referred to as a man despite her request to the contrary and being pressured to change her look:

"Manager Carol Taylor asked Ms. Jamal to change her appearance to a more masculine one, stating that she should separate her home life from her work life."

Recently, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Department of Justice decision to include transgender status under Title VII protection. It echoes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) decision of 2012. But neither ruling has constitutional authority.

In Pennsylvania, Mayor Nutter's legislation to create gender-neutral bathrooms in new or recently renovated buildings help protect the LGBT community. As the Daily News reported in April 2013,

"'We're talking about people who want to be respected, who want their personal identification to be respected and just want to blend in,'" said state Rep. Brian Sims, the first openly gay legislator who was involved with helping craft the bill, which the Council committee agreed to last week.

A manager of Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th located in the Franklin Mills Mall told that employees are not allowed to comment on the case. A message left for a Saks store manager in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, was not returned.