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Published on May 15, 2024
Tennessee Leads 18-State Coalition Suing EEOC Over Title VII Guidance on Gender IdentitySource: Tennessee State Government

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti is spearheading a legal challenge against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), representing a group of eighteen states. The coalition opposes new guidance issued by the federal agency on April 29, which they argue unlawfully extends Title VII’s protections to include gender identity in workplace discrimination cases. In a recent statement, Skrmetti criticized the EEOC's action, claiming it exceeds the agency's authority and encroaches on the constitutional separation of powers.

The lawsuit filed by the states insists that employers could be held liable under the new EEOC guidance if employees do not use a colleague's preferred pronouns or restrict bathroom access based on biological sex. The coalition argues this represents a form of government overreach, with Skrmetti notably stating, "This end-run around our constitutional institutions misuses federal power to eliminate women’s private spaces and punish the use of biologically-accurate pronouns, all at the expense of Tennessee employers." These comments were featured on the Tennessee Attorney General's official website.

Tennessee's leadership in this lawsuit recalls its past successes; most notably, in 2022, they were instrumental in securing an injunction against a similar EEOC directive. This history of challenging federal authority on such matters clearly demonstrates the state's commitment to shielding private businesses from what it views as an over-extension of regulations. A disparate collection of states has joined Tennessee in the lawsuit, reflecting a widespread concern amongst these attorneys general regarding the role of federal agencies in the governance of workplace matters and personal liberties.

The lawsuit filed yesterday is much more than a legal contestation over guidance; it's a statement on federalism. It is a collective attempt to decidedly redefine the powers of a federal agency against what these state leaders perceive as a growing tendency to not just interpret but to also broadly extend the law without proper legislative backing. The EEOC has yet to publicly respond to the lawsuit, leaving employers and legal experts to eagerly await the outcome of this significant legal battle that could affect workplace dynamics nationwide.