California transgender workers’ rights

| Mar 9, 2016 | Workplace Discrimination |

The coverage of California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act was extended in 2012 to protect people who identify as transgender. Now the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing has issued guidelines on the rights of transgender workers. The DFEH recommends that employers follow certain guidelines while the law is still developing.

Employers are advised to avoid asking questions about gender that could be discriminatory, such as questions about marital status, the relationships between household members or questions about an applicant’s body or surgical plans. Questions such as these or others that indicate a desire to determine the person’s gender identity or sexual orientation could be considered discriminatory.

The law in the state prohibits discriminatory dress codes, such as requiring transgender men to dress as women. Transgender employees also have the right to use the restroom or locker room that is designated for the gender they identify with. Employees are also encouraged to provide a unisex restroom if possible.

The DFEH guidelines are not the law, but the department encourages employers to avoid workplace discrimination by following the guidelines. Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, transgender means someone who identifies as the sex that they were not assigned at birth, regardless of whether they have had surgery or taken any other particular step in gender transition. The DFEH suggests that employees follow the lead of the employee with regards to the employee’s gender identity.

Workplace discrimination comes in many forms, and the law prohibits discrimination based on an employee’s or prospective employee’s sex, race, religion and age, among other things. Employment law attorneys will advise their clients that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken the position that gender identity discrimination is unlawful as well.

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