Legal risks of interviewing transgender applicants

Raul Lopez Jr. is a biological male who presents himself as Izza Lopez, a female. When Lopez applied for a job at a medical clinic, he listed both his male and female names on the application.

The company offered Lopez the job, but the HR director demanded to know his biological sex. Then the clinic rescinded the offer, saying Lopez “misrepresented” himself in the interview, a violation of company policy.

Lopez sued under Title VII, alleging the clinic discriminated against him because it perceived him as not conforming to traditional gender stereotypes of how a male should look.

The court sent the case to trial, saying sex discrimination occurs “when an employer discriminates against any employee, transsexual or not, because he or she has failed to act or appear sufficiently masculine or feminine enough for an employer.” (Lopez v. River Oaks Imaging & Diagnostic Group, Inc., No. H-06-3999, SD TX, 2008)

Advice: Handle interviews with transgender people just as you would with anyone—focus on job-related information only. Federal workplace anti-discrimination laws don’t specifically extend protection to transgender people. However, 13 states and several cities and counties have passed laws that do prohibit discrimination against transgender people.