If you are a gay or transgender employee, you should know that there are federal and state laws that may protect you from forms of workplace harassment and discrimination.
Remember, last year President Barack Obama issued an executive order adding gender identity to the list of rights covered in 1965 legislation signed by President Lyndon Johnson, prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating based on race, religion, gender or nationality in hiring.
In addition to this federal law protecting specific workers, California also offers protections for some workers, including protections in a law that prohibits discrimination against transsexuals, transvestites and “persons with traits not stereotypically associated with their gender.”
Keep in mind, these “traits” may include personality, clothing, hairstyle, speech, mannerisms and demeanor, and secondary sex characteristics such as vocal pitch, facial hair and body size or shape.
We bring this up because recently, a transgender guard at San Quentin State Prison wrote an op-ed to the Advocate sharing her experiences on the job. Mandi Hauwert, born Michael, started openly dressing as a woman at work in 2007.
“Most of the inmates, even the ones on death row, show me respect. My fellow officers are less tolerant. They regularly use the male pronoun of “he” or “him” to address me, a subtle but stinging insult. On occasion, I hear more overt language, like ‘it’ or ‘tranny’,” Hauwert wrote.
Despite these issues, Hauwert indicated that she was happy with her decision to go to work as a woman, even if it was initially stressful.
“I talked to a supervisor and she told me I should have no issues in coming out and transitioning, that I was protected by law. And she personally expressed her hopes that it would go smoothly, that I would receive no trouble,” Hauwert wrote. “I decided I could get away with coming out slowly.”
Fighting Transgender Discrimination at Work
While Hauwert’s decision to transition appears to have worked out well for her, some employees do not have the same experiences when they decide to transition at work. Keep in mind, California has laws that protect employees, including transgender individuals, as well as men who are “perceived” as being too “feminine” and women who are “perceived” as being too “masculine.”
The laws help protect employees from wrongful termination or instances of discrimination and/or harassment.
Remember, if you have experienced discrimination at work due to your gender identity, you may be entitled to compensation. It may be in your best interest to speak to an attorney. Connect with us on Facebook or on our website for further information about your potential options.
Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob—Los Angeles employment attorneys