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Transgender Rights in the Workplace

Thomas M. Lee
Transgender Rights in the Workplace

What Does “Transgender” Mean?

Transgender is a term used to describe people whose gender identity differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. Gender expression is defined by the law to mean a “person’s gender-related appearance and behavior whether or not stereotypically associated with the person’s assigned sex at birth.” Gender identity and gender expression are protected characteristics under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. That means that employers may not discriminate against someone because they identify as transgender or gender non-conforming. This includes the perception that someone is transgender or gender non-conforming.

What Is a Gender Transition?

  1. “Social transition” involves a process of socially aligning one’s gender with the internal sense of self (e.g., changes in name and pronoun, bathroom facility usage, participation in activities like sports teams).
  2. “Physical transition” refers to medical treatments an individual may undergo to physically align their body with internal sense of self (e.g., hormone therapies or surgical procedures). A person does not need to complete any particular step in a gender transition in order to be protected by the law. An employer may not condition its treatment or accommodation of a transitioning employee upon completion of a particular step in a gender transition.

FAQ for Employers

What is an employer allowed to ask?

Employers may ask about an employee’s employment history, and may ask for personal references, in addition to other non-discriminatory questions. An interviewer should not ask questions designed to detect a person’s gender identity, including asking about their marital status, spouse’s name, or relation of household members to one another. Employers should not ask questions about a person’s body or whether they plan to have surgery.

How do employers implement dress codes and grooming standards?

An employer who requires a dress code must enforce it in a non-discriminatory manner. This means that, unless an employer can demonstrate business necessity, each employee must be allowed to dress in accordance with their gender identity and gender expression. Transgender or gender non-conforming employees may not be held to any different standard of dress or grooming than any other employee.

What are the obligations of employers when it comes to bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms?

All employees have a right to safe and appropriate restroom and locker room facilities. This includes the right to use a restroom or locker room that corresponds to the employee’s gender identity, regardless of the employee’s assigned sex at birth. In addition, where possible, an employer should provide an easily accessible unisex single stall bathroom for use by any employee who desires increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason. Use of a unisex single stall restroom should always be a matter of choice. No employee should be forced to use one either as a matter of policy or due to harassment in a gender-appropriate facility. Unless exempted by other provisions of state law, all single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of public accommodation, or state or local government agency must be identified as all-gender toilet facilities.

If you believe you are a victim of discrimination you may, within three years of the discrimination, file a complaint of discrimination by contacting DFEH.

Please note that the information provided on this website is for general information purposes only and is not to be construed nor relied upon as legal advice nor the formation of an attorney-client relationship. For a free consultation with Attorney Thomas M. Lee, please contact us.

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