United States federal civil rights law does not protect transgender people from discrimination at work, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a memo, Reuters reported on Friday.

Sessions said the Civil Rights Act of 1964 barred workplace discrimination between men and women, but does not extend to gender identity. The Justice Department will take this stance in “all pending and future matters,” the memo said, effectively reversing a guidance issued under the Barack Obama administration.

Sessions called the interpretation a “conclusion of law, not policy”, and added that the move should not be construed to condone the ill-treatment of transgender people, AP reported.

“The Justice Department must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals,” Sessions said.

LGBT rights advocates, however, criticised the reversal as the latest in a series of Trump administration actions targeting the community, the AP report said. “Today marks another low point for a Department of Justice that has been cruelly consistent in its hostility towards the LGBT community and its inability to treat transgender people with basic dignity and respect,” James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project, was quoted as saying.

At present, there is no federal law explicitly prohibiting workplace discrimination against transgender people. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has argued they are protected from workplace bias as a form of sex discrimination covered by the law.