Fourth Circuit Holds that Transgender People Suffering from Gender Dysphoria are Entitled to Protections Under American with Disabilities Act

The Fourth Circuit recently held that people suffering from gender dysphoria qualify for protections under the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  The ADA protects people who suffer from disabilities.  Under the ADA, “disability” is broadly defined to include “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.”  However, the ADA specifically excludes “gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments” from the definition of “disability.”  In overturning the lower court’s decision on a motion to dismiss in the action, Williams v. Kincaid, Civil Action No. 20-cv-1397 (E.D. Va.), the Fourth Circuit held that gender dysphoria is not considered a “gender identity disorder.”  Specifically, the court recognized “that a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, unlike that of ‘gender identity disorder,’ concerns itself primarily with distress and other disabling symptoms [(i.e. anxiety, depression, or suicidal ideation)], rather than simply being transgender.”   As a result, the court found that the “gender identity disorder” exclusion does not apply to people suffering from gender dysphoria and that they are entitled to protections afforded by the ADA.  

The Fourth Circuit’s decision in Williams has significant implications for employees suffering from gender dysphoria.  An employee may have legal claims under the ADA if his or her employer fires, demotes, or takes some other adverse action against the employee because the employee suffers from gender dysphoria and/or because the employee complains that he or she is being discriminated against because he or she suffers from gender dysphoria.  Additionally, if an employee suffering from gender dysphoria needs an accommodation, the employer is required to engage in an interactive process with the employee to come up with an accommodation that would allow the employee to perform his or her job.  An employee may have legal claims if his or her employer fails to engage in the interactive process and/or provide an accommodation.   

If you feel that your employer has discriminated or retaliated against you, it is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible to understand your rights and whether you can pursue any claims.  To schedule a free consultation with our attorneys and to learn more about your legal rights, call our offices today at (877) 247-4292 or (212) 983-9330 or send an email to

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Faruqi & Faruqi, LLP focuses on complex civil litigation, including securities, antitrust, wage and hour, personal injury and consumer class actions as well as shareholder derivative and merger and transactional litigation. The firm is headquartered in New York, and maintains offices in California, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

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About Taylor Crabill

Taylor Crabill's practice is focused on employment litigation. Mr. Crabill is an Associate in the firm's New York Office.

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