Governor LePage recently signed onto a brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court that asks the Court to review and overturn a decision from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals which held that federal law prohibits employment discrimination against transgender workers. The Sixth Circuit’s holding does not apply to Maine because it covers only certain states in the Midwest. Furthermore, Maine state law explicitly prohibits discrimination against transgender workers. Thus, one should ask why Maine’s governor would get involved in this fight since, no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court does, transgender Mainers will still be protected from employment discrimination. It certainly looks like he got involved because he thought hostility toward transgender people could help him politically.
The Sixth Circuit is not alone in holding that laws which prohibit sex discrimination cover discrimination against transgender people. For example, the Eleventh and Seventh Circuit Courts of Appeals have both found that discrimination against someone because they are transgender is sex discrimination.
Some have warned that LePage’s needless attack on transgender workers could hurt Maine’s efforts to attract workers from other states to move here. “Viewed simply from an economic development and workforce perspective, these actions aren’t helpful,” said Ed McKersie, founder and president of the Portland staffing and recruiting firm Pro Search Inc. “We want everyone to see our state as welcoming, especially when workforce retention and attraction are so critical to the future of Maine.”
“I strongly disagree with Gov. LePage and believe that the law is both clear and right: No person should be fired because of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Maine Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Janet Mills said. “As governor, I will fight to ensure that all Maine people are treated fairly and equally and with dignity and respect. Anything less than that is wrong and out of step with Maine values.”
“Once again he is sending a terrible message to the country that Maine is a place that is not accepting of anyone who is different,” Independent gubernatorial candidate Alan Caron said. “That message is killing our economy because we need people of all kinds. It appears the governor is more interested in being part of a far-right national agenda than properly serving Maine’s needs.”
The Maine Employee Rights Group is ready and able to help transgender workers who experience discrimination. If you have experienced discrimination because of your transgender status, contact us for a free case evaluation.