The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that interprets and enforces laws against workplace discrimination, ruled Monday that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects transgender workers.

The EEOC held that "intentional discrimination against a transgender individual because that person is transgender" was sex discrimination and therefore a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

"It’s incredibly significant that the Commission has finally put its stamp of approval on the common-sense understanding that discrimination against transgender people is a form of sex discrimination," Ilona Turner, legal director of the Transgender Law Center, said. "That’s true whether it’s understood as discrimination because of the person’s gender identity, or because they have changed their sex, or because they don’t conform to other people’s stereotypes of how men and women ought to be."

The decision will impact every employer in the nation.

“The opinion will serve the essential function of ensuring that EEOC staff coast to coast, others charged with ensuring equal opportunity in federal employment and programs, and state and local officials now all can share a clear understanding that sex discrimination prohibitions protect transgender people,” said Jennifer C. Pizer, Legal Director at the Williams Institute.

According to The National Transgender Discrimination Survey, published in February 2011, 47 percent of respondents have been fired, not hired or denied a promotion because they were transgender. Ninety percent of transgender respondents reported being harassed or feeling mistreated on the job.

[Image via Jaymi Heimbuch, Creative Commons licensed]