States Sue EEOC Over New Sexual Harassment Guidance

Eighteen states led by Tennessee's AG challenge the EEOC's recent guidance on gender identity.

Nashville — Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti of Tennessee is spearheading an effort, joined by seventeen other states, to contest what they perceive as an overreach by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). On April 29, 2024, the EEOC introduced new guidance on sexual harassment that, according to the coalition, improperly expands Title VII’s scope regarding sex-based discrimination to include gender identity.

According to the EEOC’s updated guidelines, employers could be held liable under Title VII for using, or allowing employees to use, a name or pronoun that does not align with an individual’s affirmed gender identity. Furthermore, restrictions placed by employers on access to bathrooms or other gender-segregated facilities based on biological sex rather than gender identity could also result in liability. This extends to situations where customers or non-employees refuse to use a person’s preferred pronouns or share a restroom with someone of the opposite biological sex.

Attorney General Skrmetti has voiced concerns that this guidance represents an intrusion by federal agencies into the legislative domain, a realm traditionally reserved for elected officials. He argues that such actions not only challenge the constitutional separation of powers but also threaten the legitimacy of the law and alienate citizens from the legal system. Skrmetti’s statement highlighted the potential consequences for Tennessee employers, including the erosion of women’s private spaces and penalties for the acknowledgment of biological sex.

Tennessee has previously led efforts against perceived federal overreach, notably securing an injunction in 2022 against a similar EEOC guidance document. The current lawsuit sees Tennessee joined by Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The legal challenge underscores the ongoing debate over the scope of federal agencies’ authority and the balance between protecting individual rights and respecting legislative processes. The full text of the complaint can be viewed [here](

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