Gender Transition at Work - What Are Your Rights in California?

If you are planning to transition while working in California, state employment law protects workers from discrimination and harassment due to gender identity and gender expression, regardless of their assigned sex at birth. Because California has some of the strongest transgender rights laws in the entire nation, employees are beginning to feel more comfortable about transitioning in the workplace. But what are California’s transgender rights laws as they relate to gender transition at work?

Workers who identify as transgender are protected by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The law protects workers due to sex, gender, gender identity, and gender expression.

Your employer must abide by the FEHA which specifically prohibits discrimination, harassment, and retaliation due to gender identity and gender expression. According to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), your employer should follow these guidelines to ensure that they are adhering to gender transition laws. These rules protect all transgender people, even if they have not completed their transition or sex reassignment surgery.

  • Your employer must allow you to appear or dress consistently with the gender in which you identify.
  • Your compliance with company dress code policies must not be judged more harshly than a non-transgender person (e.g. a transgender person who identifies as a woman must be allowed to dress the same as a woman who is not transgender).
  • Your employer must not ask questions that may detect your gender identity or sexual orientation (e.g. marital status, questions about your body, plans to have sex reassignment surgery, etc.)
  • Your employer must allow you to use a restroom or locker room that corresponds to your gender identity.
  • Where possible, your employer should create unisex, or single-user restrooms to enhance privacy for all workers. Using this restroom should be a matter of choice, not forced on transgender employees.

Types of Gender Transition Protected by California Law

It is important for transgender workers to know that they do not need to complete any particular steps during gender transitioning in order to be protected by California law. If you are going through any of the following types of gender transition, you are protected under the FEHA:

  • Social Transition: This type of gender transition happens when you align your gender with your internal sense of self. This can involve name changes and pronouns geared toward your gender identity, restroom facility usage, and participation in activities like sports teams (e.g. you join a female softball team with coworkers if you identify as female).
  • Physical Transition: This type of gender transition occurs when you undergo medical treatments to physically align your body with your internal sense of self. Physical transitions can range between hormone therapies to change your outer appearance and voice, to surgical procedures like sex reassignment surgery.

What to Do if Your Employer Violates California Gender Transition Laws

California employers must do everything in their power to protect and help transgender employees who are going through the biggest transition they will ever undertake.

If you feel that your employer is violating California employment law as it relates to your gender identity, gender expression, or gender transition at work, contact our expert Los Angeles, California employment attorneys for a free consultation. No one should ever have to endure gender identity discrimination or harassment. Let us fight for your rights.