July 26, 2017 Category: Uncategorized
Transgender Americans face uphill battles in many aspects of their lives. One of those uphill battles is securing and keeping gainful employment. A 2016 study indicates that California is home to more than 220,000 transgender adults. Unfortunately, nearly half of these Californians report having experienced adverse job outcomes such as not receiving job offers, being denied promotions, and being fired. Transgender workers are more likely to experience workplace discrimination and are less likely to generate income sufficient to meet the demands of a 21st-century life. Women of color who identify as transgender are at a significantly heightened risk of earning less than $10,000 per year.
In June, California took its first step toward combatting the inequalities transgender workers face when Senator Ricardo Lara introduced the Transgender Work Opportunity Act (“Act”). Generally, the Act “combats discrimination and encourages the greater inclusion of transgender Californians in the work force.” Specifically, the Act would add layers of protection for transgender workers against workplace discrimination and require employers to provide education about transgender rights and violence.
The Act, also known as the Fair Employment & Housing Council Regulations Regarding Transgender Identity and Expression, is currently being debated and adjusted in the Senate. As it is currently written, the Act would:
- Define terms and expressions relevant and important to the transgender community;
- Explicitly prohibit protected employers from using the fact that an employee is transgender as a basis for a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification defense;
- Prohibit employers from assigning job tasks or responsibilities that align solely with the employee’s sex at birth;
- Prohibit employers from basing compensation or benefits on an employee’s sex, gender identity, or gender expression;
- Prohibit employers from designating jobs as being exclusively available to one sex;
- Require employers to allow employees to use facilities (formerly expressed in the text as “toilet”) of their preference, not necessarily being that which correlates with their sex at birth;
- Prohibiting employers from requiring employees to submit to medical treatments or evaluations to determine sex;
- Prohibit employers from assigning job duties according to sex stereotypes;
- Prohibit employers from requiring physical appearance, grooming, or dress standards that conflict with an employee’s gender expression unless employer can establish a business necessity for such requirement; and
- Require employers to communicate with employees using the names, genders, and pronouns of the employee’s preference.
Perhaps most importantly, the Act plainly states that discrimination against fully-transitioned, partially-transitioned, and pre-transition workers is prohibited. The final section of the Act, labeled “Additional Rights,” states that it is “unlawful to deny employment to an individual based wholly or in part on the individual’s sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression” and “unlawful to discriminate against an individual who is transitioning, has transitioned, or is perceived to be transitioning.” This broad sweeping language aims to fully protect a class of California workers who may not otherwise be protected under the current law.
In addition to these protections, the Act would require certain education and training programs to be implemented in the workplace. If enacted, employers would be required to train departmental supervisors on preventing workplace harassment on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. Employers would also be required to “prominently display” specific transgender civil rights posters in the workplace. These mandates would be implemented to educate the workforce of transgender rights and issues, and to ensure that transgender workers are afforded the opportunity to work in a safe space.
California could become the first state in the country to introduce sweeping and critically important legislation to help the transgender workforce fight back against workplace discrimination. The Senator who proposed the law has emphasized the important role transgender workers place in the California economy. California must, he argues, acknowledge and respect those workers without regard to their gender identity or sex. If the Transgender Work Opportunity Act becomes law, the rights of thousands of transgender workers across California will be affirmed.
Failure to comply with the provisions set forth in the Transgender Work Opportunity Act could leave employers open to workplace discrimination lawsuits. If you have been adversely affected in the workplace because of your gender identity, gender expression, or sex you should contact an experienced California employment discrimination attorney. While the Act still has a long way to go before it can become a law, you still have some protections under current California and United States anti-discrimination laws. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you fight back against your transgender workplace discrimination.