California Law Protects Transgender Employees From Discrimination At Work
Transgender people often face discrimination in society and in the workplace. This discrimination isn’t just hypothetical. It has a real impact on transgendered people’s lives and is evident in employment and income statistics. The data show that these people face higher levels of unemployment, underemployment and lower incomes than the general population. Here are some numbers reported by the Human Rights Campaign:
- Members of the transgender community are more than twice as likely as the general population to be unemployed (14% versus 7%).
- More than four in 10 transgender people (44%) who are currently working are underemployed.
- transgender workers are nearly four times more likely than the population as a whole to have a household income of under $10,000 (15% versus 4%).
Although things are changing for the better, these sobering statistics result from the fact that many Americans have little understanding of what it means to be transgender. Transgender people seeking work often find that the hiring process is full of difficult challenges, especially if the legal name or gender on an identifying document (e.g., a driver’s license) reflects a gender that doesn’t match the person’s outward appearance or gender expression. Once hired, transgendered employees may face many forms of harassment and discrimination, including denial of promotions or wrongful termination.
Thankfully, California’s workplace anti-discrimination laws protect transgendered individuals from discrimination and harassment just as it protects other categories of employees.
California Law Protects Employees’ Gender Identity and Gender Expression
In 2011, California enacted legislation that amended the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) to expressly prohibit workplace discrimination and harassment based on “gender identity” and “gender expression.” This amendment made clear that discrimination and harassment against workers based on gender identification and gender expression are illegal in California.
What is “Gender Identity?”
Gender identity concerns the way a person inwardly regards their own gender. California law defines “gender identity” to mean “a person’s identification as male, female, a gender different from the person’s sex at birth, or transgender.”
What is “Gender Expression”
Gender expression refers to a person’s outward appearance in terms of gender, whether or not it is correlated with the person’s sex at birth. California law defines “gender expression” to mean “a person’s gender-related appearance or behavior, whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s sex at birth.”
What About Bathrooms, Showers and Locker Rooms?
In February 2016, The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) issued guidelines on transgender rights in the workplace making clear that California employees have the right to use a restroom or locker room that corresponds to the employee’s gender identity, regardless the employee’s sex at birth.
The guidelines also suggest that where possible, employers should provide an accessible unisex single stall bathroom for any employee who desires increased privacy, regardless of the reason for that desire. The guidelines make clear that unisex bathrooms must be available to all employees, but that no employee should be required to use a unisex bathroom because of a policy or as the result of continuing harassment.
Can I be Asked About My Gender Identity or Sexual Orientation in A Job Interview?
No. Employers should not ask questions designed to detect a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation. This includes asking questions about marital status, spouse’s name, or the relation of members of your household to one another. Questions about a person’s body or whether they plan to have surgery (including sex reassignment surgery) are also inappropriate.
What About Dress Restrictions and Uniforms?
It is illegal in California for an employer to prohibit an employee from dressing in a manner suitable for that employee’s gender identity. If your employer has a dress code, it must be enforced in a non-discriminatory manner. This means, for example, that a transgender person who identifies as female must be allowed to dress the same as non-transgender women. Also, a transgender employee’s compliance with a dress code cannot be judged more harshly than non-transgender employees are judged.
If You Are a Victim of Harassment or Discrimination, Contact Us Today
The Orange County based Law Offices of Corbett H. Williams is an elite law firm that represents employees in discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, wage & hour and other employment matters. Strict time limits may apply to your claim, so you shouldn’t wait. Contact us today at 949-679-9909 or use the contact form at the bottom of this page, and we will respond promptly.