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Gender identity disorder conditions may be protected by ADA

California employees who have conditions related to gender identity disorder might be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act according to a federal court ruling. A woman had filed claims of retaliation and disability discrimination against her employer. She said that her gender dysphoria limited some of her life activities, but her employer argued that this was not covered under the ADA. The woman said that her rights to equal protection under the Constitution had been violated.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania used an approach called the "constitutional-avoidance canon" in its decision. This allows a court to ignore the plaintiff's constitutional question. Furthermore, the court looked at conditions that are specifically excluded from ADA protection. One is a condition that may result in conduct that is harmful or illegal. The others are conditions related to sexual identity and orientation that are not disabling. In reaching its decision, the court held that disabling conditions that do not lead to harmful or illegal actions are not excluded.

The court rejected the employer's request to dismiss the case. Its reasoning was that the ADA needs to offer broad protection and that any exceptions should be narrowly interpreted.

People who believe they are facing discrimination at work for any reason may want to consider speaking with an attorney about the situation. As this case demonstrates, determining whether discrimination has occurred and if workers are protected in certain situations can sometimes be complex. Employees may have broader employment protection and protection from retaliation than they or their employers realize. On the other hand, while the court has ruled that the case can proceed, it may ultimately decide that the employer's actions did not constitute discrimination.

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