Human Rights Campaign Hub

Saks Fifth Avenue Shockingly Claims It Has A Right To Discriminate Against Transgender Employees


Saks Fifth Avenue received a score of 90 on the Human Rights Campaign's most recent Corporate Equality Index. 

But attorneys for a former employee who's suing the department store chain say it isn't living up to that score. 

Transgender woman Leyth O. Jamal (above), a former sales associate for Saks Fifth Avenue at Houston's Galleria mall, filed a lawsuit in September against the company, alleging wrongful termination based on sex in violation of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, in addition to a hostile work environment, retaliation and breach of contract.

In court filings responding to Jamal's lawsuit, attorneys for Saks shockingly allege that Jamal isn't protected against discrimination under Title VII. The court filings also misgender Jamal and argue that Saks isn't bound by the nondiscrimination policy in its employee handbook, which includes gender identity. 


Attorney Jillian T. Weiss (right), co-counsel for Jamal, said in a statement that Saks is essentially claiming that “transgender people shouldn’t have protection from discrimination in the workplace.”

“Saks is touting its high score on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, including its gender identity protections, and then arguing that its trans employees aren't entitled to expect it to deliver on that promise," Weiss said.

In a landmark 2012 ruling, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that job bias against transgender workers qualifies as sex discrimination under Title VII. And earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder announced the U.S. Justice Department is taking the position that transgender employees are protected under Title VII. 

However, in a motion responding to Jamal's lawsuit, an attorney for Saks wrote: 

"Plaintiff’s claims should be dismissed in whole or in part for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Plaintiff’s sexual orientation and/or his sexual identity issues and/or his “gender identity” and/or his gender expression” and/or his alleged disability are not protected categories under Title VII." 

In a subsequent motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Saks argued:  

"Plaintiff’s discrimination and harassment claims fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted because transsexuals are not a protected class under Title VII."

In her lawsuit, Jamal alleges she was forced to use the men's restroom while working at Saks. The lawsuit also alleges Jamal was told by a manager to have a more masculine appearance, and not to wear makeup or feminine-style clothing. Meanwhile, one co-worker called Jamal a prostitute and threatened physical violence against her. 

In July 2012, Jamal filed an EEOC complaint, alleging discrimination based on gender. Ten days later, she was fired, prompting her to amend the complaint to include a charge of retaliation.

Several of Jamal's co-workers corroborated her claims, and the EECO concluded:   

“Based upon the evidence, the Commission concludes that Charging Party was subjected to intimidation and harassment based on sex (male), and because of failure to conform to stereotypical male behavior in the workplace, in violation of Title VII. Further, the Commission concludes that Respondent has an unlawful policy or practice which denies employees access to restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity, in violation of Title VII.”

After conciliation through EEOC failed, Jamal filed the lawsuit. 

In its response, Saks denies many of Jamal's allegations, but admits she was required to use the men's restroom. 

Read the court documents, and watch a report from, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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U.S. Drops The Gambia From Popular Trade Agreement Over Increasing Unjust Treatment Of LGBT People

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On Tuesday the U.S. dropped The Gambia from a popular free trade agreement, the African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2000, in response to the country's crackdown on LGBT rights and other human rights concerns reports BuzzFeedThe decision comes after The Gambia announced that three men would be put on trial for homosexuality; the three men are the first to face trial since police began arresting people on allegations of homosexuality in November. Currently 16 others are held in detention, leaving Gambian human rights activists unsure if the captives are even still alive. Ned Price, a spokesman for the White House, emailed BuzzFeed regarding the situation.

Said Price:

"The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has been monitoring the human rights situation in The Gambia for the past few years, with deepening concerns about the lack of progress with respect to human rights, rule of law, political pluralism, and the right to due process.

"In addition, in October, Gambian President Jammeh signed into law legislation that further restricts the rights of LGBT individuals, including life imprisonment for so-called ‘aggravated homosexuality.’ Reports have surfaced of arrests, detention, and torture of individuals because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity."

Gambian human rights activists secured meetings with high-ranking U.S. officials after several unsuccessful years trying to get the State Department to respond to the terrible human rights record of President Yahya Jammeh. With the help of the Human Rights Campaign, activists believe the Obama administration is finally regarding them as a force in influencing U.S. foreign policy.

The meeting earlier this month that was held with Gambian human rights activists and White House officials was the first time they met with someone from the State Department regarding Jammeh's human rights record. Under the AGOA trade agreement, The Gambia was exporting an estimated $37 million in goods to the U.S. each year, duty-free. The U.S. essentially expelled The Gambia from the special trade status. This marks the first significant time the U.S. revoked trade status with an African nation, except when a government was overthrown in a coup according to statements from Jeffrey Smith, the advocacy officer with the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights. Sudan was also dropped from the agreement for refusing to move toward peaceful solutions however, the country does not have any significant trade between itself and the U.S. 

HRC Publishes Its Tone-Deaf, Annual Corporate Equality Index

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It’s the most listicle time of the year, which is to say that it’s the holiday season and publications across the internet are putting out end of the year lists (we’ve got a couple of great ones here, here, and here.) Never one to miss out on a party, the Human Rights Campaign has published its annual Corporate Equality Index, a roundup of the “Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality.”

One might assume, given the somewhat odd naming, that the list would focus on companies working to further LGBT equality. One would be wrong. Rather, the CEI is a choice selection of large companies with fairly strict non-discrimination policies on the books. The problem, as Jordan Krueger explains in the Huffington Post, is that the index is more or less an exercise in tone deaf corporate nonsense:

“There's no consideration of the larger picture of a corporation's actions, its misdeeds, or how working for a company on this list oftentimes means working directly for, or closely with, enemies of equality.”

Abercrombie & Fitch, Comcast, and Chevron all made the list. It doesn’t take the most media-conscious person to know that none of these companies has the strongest of track records when it comes to being objectively “good.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook Makes 'Substantial' Contribution To HRC Campaign Targeting His Home State Of Alabama

Six weeks after coming out publicly, Apple CEO Tim Cook has made a "substantial" contribution to a campaign aimed at bringing LGBT equality to his home state of Alabama. 

Cook.TimThe Human Rights Campaign announced Cook's contribution Thursday to its Project One America, an $8.5 million, three-year effort targeting Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi. Cook grew up in South Alabama and attended Auburn University. 

The Associated Press reports: 

The amount of Cook's contribution to the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign wasn't disclosed, but the advocacy organization called it "substantial." ... 

The campaign includes advertising on TV and elsewhere, direct-mail fliers and staff members hired in each state.

"We hope Tim Cook's substantial personal investment inspires others to support this vital and historic project," Jason Rahlan, a spokesman for Human Rights Campaign, said in an email.

President Chad Griffin wrote on HRC's blog

When Tim first learned about HRC's Project One America – our bold, comprehensive campaign to dramatically advance equality for LGBT Americans in Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi – he said, “I'm in.” Thanks to his generous personal financial investment in the program, together we will move the needle forward at the local and state level, tearing down misperceptions and providing concrete protections for those who need it most.

Shortly before coming out, Cook delivered a speech in Montgomery in which he said Alabama was moving "too slow on equality for the LGBT community." The state's only openly gay lawmaker recently announced she plans to name a nondiscrimination bill after Cook in the upcoming legislative session. 

Cook, who heads the world's largest corporation, is the only openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company. 

RedIn related news, Cook announced in an email to employees that Apple's Product (RED) holiday campaign raised over $20 million for AIDS research, Business Insider reports: 

"I’m thrilled to announce that our total donation for this quarter will be more than $20 million — our biggest ever — bringing the total amount Apple has raised for (PRODUCT) RED to over $100 million. The money we’ve raised is saving lives and bringing hope to people in need. It’s a cause we can all be proud to support," Cook wrote. 

Watch a video for HRC's Project America campaign in Alabama, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Chad Griffin Grilled on Whether HRC Would Support LGBT Civil Rights Bill With Broader Religious Exemption

Some additional follow-up from Chris Johnson at the Washington Blade regarding Senator Jeff Merkley's (D-OR) announcement Wednesday that he'll spearhead a comprehensive LGBT civil rights bill in the next session of Congress.

Johnson reports: Merkley

In response to a question from the Washington Blade during the question-and-answer portion of the event, Merkley said he expects discussions among stakeholders to take place on the religious exemption for the legislation, but he wants language that should track "identically the provisions that we currently have for race."

Given his support for legislation that would have a religious exemption mirroring existing civil rights law, one idea, as opposed to a standalone bill for comprehensive protections, is amending the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Merkley wouldn't rule out the possibility of that path when asked about it by the Blade.

"That certainly is a possible strategy," Merkley said. "And because I want to bring forward a coalition and work in partnership with the stakeholders, I won't now say that there is only one path to get there, but that is certainly one of the strong candidates."

C_griffinJohnson then took his questions to HRC President Chad Griffin:

LGBT advocates who took part in a panel discussion after Merkley's remarks, including Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, expressed a strong preference for a comprehensive bill with a narrow religious exemption.


Griffin said there's "universal agreement" from LGBT groups on what the religious exemption should look like, but LGBT advocates have to make a better case for that language on Capitol Hill by saying LGBT people want the same exemption that exists for other groups under existing law.

"It already exists in law," Griffin said. "There's already a religious exemption, and that's what we've got to do a better job of talking about."

Following the event, the Blade asked Griffin to clarify whether those words mean HRC would decline to support a non-discrimination measure in the upcoming Congress with a broader religious exemption. Griffin replied that he addressed this issue during the event, reiterating that HRC will "support a religious exemption that is the same religious exemption that already exists under law, and I think all of us, all of us — whether advocates, journalists or otherwise — can better make the point that there already is a model religious exemption."

Asked again by the Blade whether that means HRC won't support a bill with a broader religious exemption, Griffin insisted he answered that question directly, adding he doesn't think LGBT allies on Capitol Hill would support a bill with a greater religious carve-out than what's already enshrined under existing civil rights law.

Extreme Anti-Gay 'Christian' Scott Lively To Stand Trial For Crimes Against Humanity - VIDEO


The First Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday denied an attempt by anti-gay bigot Scott Lively to have a crimes against humanity suit against him dismissed, reports Michael In Norfolk.

In 2012, an American group called the Center for Constitutional Rights, representing a Ugandan group called Sexual Minorities Uganda, sued Lively in federal court in Massachusetts for crimes against humanity.

6a00d8341c730253ef01b8d07d8f6b970c-800wiOf the many anti-gay activists in the U.S., Lively is arguably the nastiest.  Recently profiled in Human Rights Campaign’s Export of Hate report, Lively last week suggested that homosexuality is worse than murder.

In October, we reported that the nasty bigot - a driving force behind Uganda's "Kill the Gays" bill - appeared in a Russian state-funded "documentary" called Sodom.

Lively, the head of virulently homophobic listed hate group Abiding Truth Ministries, has been accused of helping play a part in the persecution, arrest and murder of gay people in Uganda, a charge which he has denied.

The First Circuit ruling means that Lively will now have to stand trial.

Watch the apocalyptic hate-filled "documentary" Sodom - no subtitles, but the tone gives it away - in full, AFTER THE JUMP...

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