In Wittmer v. Phillips 66 Company, the Fifth Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s summary judgment in favor of Phillips 66 on a claim of employment discrimination based on transgender status. While affirming the judgment for the employer, the Court wrote to reject the district court’s summary conclusion that Title VII prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of transgender status. In affirming the trial court’s judgment, the appeals court expressly rejected the district court’s summary holding that Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on transgender status because the court did not address binding Fifth Circuit precedent holding that Title VII does not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination nor distinguish the Wittmer case from that precedent. Wittmer leaves open the possibility that a federal court in the Fifth Circuit might properly hold that Title VII prohibits transgender employment discrimination so long as the court distinguishes the binding precedent in this Circuit holding that Title VII does not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination (i.e., that Title VII prohibits transgender discrimination but not sexual orientation).
A copy of the opinion can be accessed here.