There's a case in front of the Supreme Court right now that will answer whether employers may discriminate against transgender workers. The orange one's administration says employers should be able to discriminate against trans people. If you think that case won't affect you because you're straight or not transgender, think again.
When I was starting out in law practice, a judge decided that women were prohibited from appearing in his court in pants. There was an outcry, of course, and the judge had to reverse course. I didn't wear anything but pants in court for years after that, and still mostly wear pants. The Department of Justice has supported the funeral home owner in the transgender discrimination case, and that owner has specifically stated that he would fire any woman who refused to wear a skirt to work. The DOJ thinks that's just fine and dandy.
Transgender discrimination is part of sex discrimination, and that's why some courts have said its illegal. The theory is that trans people don't meet gender stereotypes of what a man or woman should look like, dress like and behave like, and that if they were another gender they wouldn't have any issues.
These cases impact more than just trans employees because they affect any worker that doesn't fit in with sexual stereotypes. A woman that wants to wear pants, a man that doesn't like football, a woman that drinks beer and watches sports with the guys, a man that enjoys sewing, a woman who drives a muscle car, a man who wears pink clothes, the list can go on and on of behaviors and appearances that might not meet a boss's expectations of what a man or woman should be.
If you look back at other discrimination cases, you can see that they had a positive impact on others outside their protected class. Sex discrimination cases involving height and weight requirements for police and fire allowed smaller men to choose those professions as well as women. Disability discrimination cases involving wheelchair access also allows parents with strollers easier access to buildings. By eliminating arbitrary restrictions on employment and accessibility, we make things better for many people.
So if you aren't typical of your gender, if you don't fall into 100% of what people traditionally think your gender should be (and isn't that most of us in some way?), or if you just want to wear pants or pink to work, then you should be rooting for the trans workers who are fighting for legal protections against discrimination. Let's not go back to the bad old days of strict gender roles in society.
Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.