On August 16, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (covering Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia) has become the first federal appellate court to find that gender dysphoria is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The decision came after a transgender woman sued Fairfax County for housing her with men during her time in jail.
The court explained that “being transgender is not a disability,” but “many transgender people experience gender dysphoria.” Distinct from now-obsolete “gender identity disorders” that the ADA excludes, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines gender dysphoria as “psychological distress that results from an incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity.” As the court explained, gender dysphoria “concerns itself primarily with distress and other disabling symptoms, rather than simply being transgender.” Excluding gender dysphoria from ADA protection, the court ruled, “would discriminate against transgender people as a class,” in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The ADA requires employers, schools, and other businesses or organizations open to the public to provide reasonable accommodations to support people with disabilities. In the employment context, this decision allows employees experiencing gender dysphoria to request workplace accommodation from their employers. Additionally, those discriminated against for gender dysphoria may bring a claim under the ADA.
This ruling follows an increase in federal district courts’ endorsement of gender dysphoria as a protected disability under federal anti-discrimination law. Even so, the law is constantly evolving in this area, and you should contact an attorney to see how this ruling—or the ADA in general—applies to you. Our experienced employment law attorneys are happy to discuss your case and help you understand your legal rights and options in light of this new ruling.
 Williams v. Kincaid, No. 21-2030, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 22728 (4th Cir. Aug. 16, 2022).