United States – group of Republican-dominated US states filed a lawsuit to stop the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from enforcing the broad legal protections for transgender workers.

Background and Legal Context

The 18 states submitted the complaint in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee, late Monday. The federal workplace bias agency didn’t have the power to demand that the federal law require employers to use transgender workers’ preferred pronouns and allow them to use bathrooms that match their gender identity, as reported by Reuters.

The commission, ten months ago, revised its guidance on workplace harassment for the very first time in 25 years, and the new positions reflect the 2020 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that discriminating against gay and transgender workers is a form of unlawful sex bias.

The EEOC in the guidance said that the refusal to provide accommodations to transgender workers is equal to workplace harassment based on sex.

However, the states in their lawsuit claimed that federal law is much narrower, it protects workers from being fired because of their transgender identity but it does not require the employers to take affirmative steps to accommodate them.

Authority and Oversight

“EEOC has no authority to resolve these highly controversial and localized issues, which are properly reserved for Congress and the states,” they said.

A spokesman for the commission did not reply to the request for comment immediately.

Guidance is intended to influence the enforcement of the EEOC staff, who investigate workers’ complaints and can mediate settlements or file lawsuits against employers. It is not a law. Agencies have used in previous cases the argument that enforcement guidance cannot be reviewed in court.

However, the states in Monday’s lawsuit claimed that the commission’s guidance is a significant change in the agency’s reading of federal law, which will cause some employers to change their practices to avoid EEOC complaints and lawsuits by workers.

The states also say that the directive is wrong, as the commission’s structure as an independent agency is against the U.S. Constitution. They claim that the U.S. president, who appoints the EEOC’s five commissioners, should be able to remove them at will.

A similar group of states also tried to make those claims in a lawsuit filed last month that challenged an EEOC rule that gives workers who have abortions the same legal protections as those who are pregnant or have just given birth, as reported by Reuters.

State Involvement

Tennessee filed Monday’s lawsuit, which is joined by Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, South Carolina, and Virginia, among other states.