Does California Have Gender Identity Discrimination Laws?

LA Gender Identity Discrimination Lawyer Explains Your Rights to Expression

California employment laws are among the most comprehensive in the nation, and specifically prohibit workplace and housing discrimination against a wide range of protected groups. Notably, discrimination on the basis of gender identity is against these laws. “Gender identity” refers to a person’s self-concept of his or her own gender, which may not always be the same as that person’s biological gender. Gender identity is distinct from sexual orientation and gender expression, though they are closely linked. While everyone has a gender identity, workers whose identities do not correspond with their assigned genders are more likely to face discrimination in the workplace. However, this is illegal in California, meaning that workers may file an employment lawsuit if they experience such discrimination.

If you believe you have been subjected to gender identity discrimination in the workplace, you may be able to secure relief under state or federal law. At the Law Offices of Kesluk, Silverstein, & Jacob, our Los Angeles employment lawyers have more than 100 years of combined experience upholding workers’ rights in California. A gender identity discrimination lawyer from our law firm can explain your legal rights and help you file a claim. You may be able to recover compensation and help protect future workers from receiving similar treatment.

What are the Gender Identity Discrimination Laws in California?

In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) prohibits gender identity discrimination. Courts sometimes interpret the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law, in a way that protects workers from this kind of discrimination in the workplace. However, the FEHA specifically bans discrimination against transsexuals, transvestites and “persons with traits not stereotypically associated with their gender”. These traits may include personality, clothing, hairstyle, speech, mannerisms and/or demeanor. They may also include secondary sex characteristics, such as vocal pitch, facial hair and body size or shape.

This means that employers may not discriminate against workers based on gender identity or gender expression. These laws protect not only transgender individuals, but also men who are “perceived” as being too “feminine” and women who are “perceived” as being too “masculine.”

Depending on the industry, these laws may raise legitimate concerns regarding the enforcement of dress codes and the use of traditionally single-sex facilities, such as washrooms. Generally, an employee may legally use whichever restroom fits his or her gender identity, rather than biological gender. Additionally, a person’s coworkers typically should use the name and pronoun consistent with a person’s gender identity.

California employment laws generally do allow for the enforcement of unisex uniform policies and grooming standards. However, employers may not apply different standards for men and women. For example, a policy prohibiting eye makeup should be lawful if the company enforces it in a nondiscriminatory manner. So, if an employer does not generally prohibit eye makeup, it cannot prohibit a male employee from wearing it. Similarly, an employer can prohibit, in a nondiscriminatory manner, provocative, outlandish or flamboyant dress in the workplace. However, it is clear that regardless of employers’ or customers’ personal tastes or preferences, employers cannot prohibit dressing against traditional gender norms itself.

What is the Bona Fide Occupational Qualification Defense?

While California laws are generally comprehensive in prohibiting all workplace and housing discrimination, there are some exceptions. For example, some religious organizations may not be held to these laws in certain circumstances. Additionally, both Title VII and most state anti-discrimination laws recognize a limited bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ) defense. This permits employers to consider a person’s gender when filling certain jobs that directly raise privacy concerns for customers or other third parties. This may include restroom and locker-room attendants.

However, it is still unclear whether courts will recognize a similar BFOQ defense with respect to transgender applicants. We also do not know if the BFOQ defense will work in states that extended equal-rights protections to transgender applicants.

More Questions? Consult an LA Gender Identity Discrimination Lawyer Today

If you are a victim of workplace discrimination, then contact our Los Angeles employment lawyers today. We have years of experience helping victims of discrimination at work, including gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination. If you need more information about what employer actions constitute discrimination or our work on gender identity discrimination cases, then take advantage of a free attorney consultation. Know your workplace rights. Call today.