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Transgender, gay, lesbian workers in need of better protections

Workers in Los Angeles and throughout the entire state of California are protected under anti-discrimination laws that ban employers from discriminating against and harassing workers based on their age, gender, national origin, disability, race, religion and sexual orientation. Unfortunately, this does not mean that discrimination and harassment in the workplace is non-existent.

Society may certainly be more accepting of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people. But when it comes to the workplace, employees and job applicants still witness or become victims of sexual orientation discrimination. According to a study from 2008, nearly 80 percent of transgender people polled reported an experience involving discrimination and harassment in the workplace. More than 40 percent of gays, lesbians and bisexuals polled reported at least one experience of discrimination in the workplace.

In an effort to combat bias in the workplace based on one's gender identity or sexual orientation, some lawmakers are pushing for federal anti-discrimination laws that would protect all workers in the U.S. from gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination. Currently, California is only one of 16 states that protect workers from this type of discrimination.

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which is commonly referred to as ENDA, would certainly ensure that all workers in the U.S. are protected from discrimination. However, the proposed federal law would also benefit workers in California.

California's current anti-discrimination laws do not specifically include anti-harassment or anti-discrimination protections for transgender employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission did rule earlier this year, though, that California's state laws are meant to protect transgender employees even though state laws do not specifically state so. It is the hope that if ENDA is passed, the federal law would specifically include transgender workers as protected employees.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Preventing bias on the job," June 17, 2012

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