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For many years, transgender employees did not enjoy the same protection against discrimination afforded to other employees. They experienced higher rates of unemployment and were more likely to be underemployed or earning less income when compared to the general population. This situation stems from lack of awareness and understanding by society toward the issues that face transgender individuals.
Transgender individuals face unemployment at double the rate of the general population. Almost half of transgendered Americans currently qualify as underemployed and are four times as likely to earn less than $10,000 in a year.
When a transgender people apply for a job, they face unique problems that, when become discrimination, can prove difficult. They may have a legal name or gender on one document conflict with their driver’s license. If hired, they enter a workplace ill-prepared to accommodate them and a workforce wholly ignorant to or antagonistic toward them.
In addition, transgender individuals face problems getting accurate or updated documentation to fill many required documents for employment. Some employers may exclude them from health benefits that cover their basic health needs. If they do receive these benefits, the insurance may refuse to cover transition-related care. Employers often deny medical leave for this care simply because the care isn’t covered by the business’s regulations or they misclassify the care as a basic condition ineligible for leave. This forces transgender individuals to choose between losing their job or risking their health because they could not get necessary medical attention.
California (CA) passed legislation in 2011 to amend the Fair Employment and Housing (FEH) Act (FEHA) to include transgender individuals. The law now bans discrimination in the work-center and has made illegal any kind of harassment that would result from an individual’s gender identity or expression.
In 2016, the CA Department of FEH issued instructions for workplaces where transgender individuals worked. These guidelines explained the use of restrooms by transgender employees, namely that they were free to use the restroom or locker room that matched the employee’s gender identity, not the gender they had at birth. They also recommended installation of individual-use unisex bathrooms for use by all employees so as to decrease the likelihood of a transgender worker being singled out.
The law bans employers from asking questions as a condition of employment that attempt to establish a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation, to include questions about gender, marital status, or the prospective employee’s body. The employer also may not compel an individual to wear clothing the employer believes is more appropriate to the employee’s gender identity. Dress codes at workplaces should apply across the board and not target LGBTQ+ individuals. Penalties for violating an employer’s dress code cannot target an individual or group more harshly than another.
Transgender individuals face many difficulties simply trying to work for a living. Federal laws do not protect them from discrimination or harassment based on “gender identity.” However, CA law has stepped into this gap in an effort to provide these individuals equal protection and opportunity in the workplace environment. If you’ve faced discrimination based on your gender identity, contact a law firm with experience in these cases.