The definition of sexual orientation in the law includes a person’s “actual or perceived … gender identity or expression.” This is explicit protection for transgender persons in Maine (5 Me. Rev. Stat. sec. 4553 (9-C)).
The Maine Human Rights Commission has also set out its view that employers must “reasonably accommodate” employees with respect to gender identity and gender expression issues in the workplace. The only legitimate reason for failure to do so is if doing so “would impose an undue hardship on the conduct of the business” (94-348 Me. Hum Rights Comm’n Reg. Ch. 3, § 3.12 (F) (1). Available at: http://www.maine.gov/mhrc/index.html).
In some situations a transgender person may also have a claim of sex or disability discrimination if he or she is adversely treated at work, in housing, in a place of public accommodation, in a credit transaction or at an educational institution. If the adverse action is triggered by the sense that the individual does not meet the expectations of or act like a “real man” or “real woman,” then this can be the basis for a sex stereotyping claim as well. See Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (490 U.S. 228, 251 (1989)) and Rosa v. Park West Bank (214 F.3d 213 (1st Cir. 2000)).
In September 2007, the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) adopted amendments to its employment and housing rules to add “sexual orientation” to the protected classifications under the Maine Human Rights Act. As part of these amendments,” the MHRC defined both “gender identity” and “gender expression” as protected under the definition of “sexual orientation.”
The Commission defined “gender identity” as an “individual’s gender-related identity, whether or not the identity is different from that traditionally associated with that individual’s assigned sex at birth, including, but not limited to, a gender identity that is transgender or androgynous” (94-348 Me. Hum Rights Comm’n Reg. Ch. 3, § 3.02(D) (2). Available at: http://www.maine.gov/mhrc/laws/index.html).
It has also defined “gender expression” as “the manner in which an individual’s gender identity is expressed, including, but not limited to, through dress, appearance, manner, speech, or lifestyle” (94-348 Me. Hum Rights Comm’n Reg. Ch. 3, § 3.02(D) (3). Available at: http://www.maine.gov/mhrc/laws/index.html).
For more information, see GLAD’s publication, Transgender Legal Issues in New England.