Anti-discrimination laws in the state of California probably offer employees more legal protection than the laws in any other state. When an employer in California discriminates against an employee or a job seeker because of that person’s gender or gender identity, race, religion, age, disability, nationality, orientation, or pregnancy, it is usually in violation of both state and federal law. California lawmakers and courts are serious about protecting employees’ rights and making sure that no one who is employed in California is victimized by employment discrimination.

In fact, hiring and employment discrimination victims may sue employers who illegally discriminate in California, and in some cases, discrimination victims may be awarded monetary damages. In the San Francisco Bay Area, if you believe that you are facing hiring or on-the-job discrimination for any reason, discuss your legal rights and options – which may include filing a discrimination lawsuit – as quickly as possible with an experienced San Francisco employment rights attorney.

EXACTLY WHAT ARE THE NEW CALIFORNIA EMPLOYMENT REGULATIONS?

Earlier this year, the California Fair Employment and Housing Council (FEHC) issued new regulations regarding transgender identity and gender expression in the workplace. The regulations became effective on July 1, 2017. These regulations protect and enhance the legal rights of employees who are transgendered individuals. California employers must be in compliance with the new regulations – now. Some employers may need to revise employee handbooks to ensure that policies described there are compliant.

The new rules spell out the policies and practices that employers in our state now must implement, including these:

Restroom use: California employers must offer equal access to restroom facilities. Employees must have access to facilities that correspond to a worker’s gender identity or expression. Employers cannot demand “proof” of an employee’s gender before allowing an employee to use a specific restroom facility.

“Transitioning”: The new state rules define “transitioning” and make it illegal to discriminate in any way against a transgendered employee who has transitioned, is transitioning, or is thought to be transitioning. Transitioning can include name and clothing changes, hormone therapy, surgery, and counseling.

Dress: Unless the action is dictated by a business need, California employers cannot impose dress codes that conflict with an employee’s identity or expression of gender.

Legal documentation: California employers cannot request documentation of an employee’s or a prospective employee’s gender or gender expression. Employers must respect an employee’s desire to be referred to by a certain name and gender identity – except when the law requires the use of an employee’s “legal” name and gender expression (if different from the employee’s “preferred” name and gender expression.)

The regulations also address signage on restroom doors. The state’s new rules are not new laws or policies but rather are clarifications to the anti-discrimination laws that the state of California has been enforcing for years. The state has prohibited discrimination against transgendered individuals in employment and housing since 2004. In 2012, the Gender Nondiscrimination Act made state law even more explicit by specifically defining “gender identity” and “gender expression” as legally protected categories.

WHY WERE THE NEW REGULATIONS ISSUED?

According to the Oakland-based Transgender Law Center, even though transgender discrimination has been illegal for years in California, the new regulations set forth by the FEHC provide clarification regarding precisely what rights transgender employees have and what responsibilities employers have. The new rules also remind employers that they may be legally accountable for any violations. Employment discrimination, as you may guess, is not the only kind of transgender discrimination that is illegal in this state.

Discrimination against transgendered individuals is prohibited in almost every realm of public life in California, including housing, insurance, education, public benefits, and public accommodations. You cannot be fired, evicted, forced to use a particular public restroom, denied services, or denied medical treatment in California on the basis of your gender identity or gender expression. Landlords may not falsely represent that a residence is unavailable or restrict the price or conditions attached to a rental unit on the basis of a prospective tenant’s gender identity.

Federal employees in California are not covered by the state’s employment laws, but federal employees in California and other states are protected from discrimination based on gender stereotyping by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Transgendered individuals who believe they are victims of discrimination by any employer – or who believe they are or have been the victims of any illegal discrimination – should discuss their concerns with an experienced San Francisco workplace harassment attorney.

EXACTLY WHAT CONSTITUTES EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION?

Employment discrimination includes but is not limited to the denial of benefits or promotions, favoritism, unwanted sexual advances, or any kind of retaliation for whistleblowing or for filing a legal complaint. During hiring interviews, California employers may not ask questions about a job seeker’s sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, children, or about certain criminal arrests and records.

If you are victimized by employment discrimination, try to compile evidence that proves it. Document every discriminatory incident immediately. Write down times and dates and the names of any witnesses. Print hard copies of emails or any other evidence that helps prove your allegations.

Report discrimination to your supervisor or manager or to a higher-up or a Human Resources officer. If there’s no response or no change in the discriminatory circumstances, you should consider taking legal action. It is your right.

If you take an employment discrimination claim to an experienced San Francisco employment rights attorney, and if your attorney determines that you have sufficient grounds and evidence for legal action, your attorney will first attempt to negotiate a settlement with the employer and the employer’s attorney or attorneys. Out-of-courts settlements of these claims are common, and in fact, very few California employment discrimination cases actually go to trial.

However, when the employer is unwilling to negotiate in good faith or offer a reasonable settlement in an employment discrimination case, an aggressive employment rights lawyer will take your lawsuit to trial and will accept nothing less than the compensation you deserve as a discrimination victim. In California, if you are targeted for employment discrimination because you are transgendered or for any other reason, you should know that legal help is available and the law is on your side.

By: Fred Geonetta

Frederick J. Geonetta is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law. His legal practice is entirely devoted to litigation. Mr. Geonetta has spent the past 25 years in private practice representing both plaintiffs and defendants who have been harmed or wronged by the actions of others or who have been falsely accused of causing harm to others. He represents clients across the U.S. and international clients who seek U.S. legal advice or representation.