Amendments to California law add to transgender employee rights

A broad spectrum of rights for those who are transgender or have a different sexual identity than prevailing norms are being implemented in California and across the country. New rules were put into effect on April 1 based on the Fair Employment and Housing Act in the state. It is important for employers and employees to have a full understanding of these changes and to ensure compliance.

The amendments to the law have definitions related to transgender, gender identity and gender expression. Transgender means that person has a current gender that differs from what it was at birth. Gender identity relates to how a person identifies him or herself. Gender expression relates to the appearance or behaviors that might not adhere to conventional beliefs. There is a clarification in the law stating that employees cannot be confronted with employment discrimination or other harassing acts based on their gender identity and gender expression. Employers must know about employee rights and how the employment can be affected by these amended rules.

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing has presented updated guidance for employers to follow when it comes to people who fall into these subsets. There is a difference between a social and physical transition. The social transition is linked to how the person views him or herself physically. Medical treatments to undergo a change from one gender to the other are connected to the physical changes. With this guidance, the person in question is not required to complete specific steps in a gender transition to have legal protections, and employers cannot alter the treatment of the employee based on that.

Employers are warned against questions that are designed to determine an employee’s gender identity. It also states that dress codes have to let employees dress in a way that is applicable to their gender identity with the dress codes enforced in a non-discriminatory way. Employees can use the restroom that corresponds to how they identify no matter their sex when they were born. A unisex restroom must be provided for any employee who wants to use it.

This issue has been prominent in the news recently and those who believe that there has been a violation of this amended law should be aware that they have certain rights. If there was any form of  discrimination at work, an attorney can provide help in moving forward with a legal claim.

Source: CPA Practice Advisor, “New Regulations Focus on Transgender Employee Rights,” May 9, 2016

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