Is gender identity a protected class?

Discover if equal employment laws and discrimination laws include protection for gender identity. Find out what constitutes gender discrimination.

In recent years, the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals have went through many changes. This group may have once been highly discriminated against and had to hide their true selves to get equal treatment, but this is no longer the case. This is especially true in states like California where the government and people are quite open to fully including everyone and eliminating all forms of discrimination.

Even with a general attitude of acceptance, there are still situations where people could face discrimination for being LGBT. Specifically, transgender individuals may face harsher treatment than others in the LGBT community when it comes to employment. To avoid such issues, the state and federal government have stepped in to ensure equal treatment.

Federal laws

The main law in place at the federal level to protect against discrimination in the workplace is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Supreme Court believe this act covers transgender individuals and their rights under its protection against sex discrimination.

There are many ways in which an employer could discriminate against a transgender employee. In general, any action motivated by the employee's transgender status constitutes discrimination. Not allowing a transgender person to use the restroom of their preferred gender could be discrimination. Not calling the person by his or her chosen name or using the correct pronouns is also discriminatory. Employers also cannot fire someone for transitioning or refuse to hire someone who is transgender.

Employers must also protect transgender employees from harassment just as they would any other protected class. This means not allowing derogatory terms to be used or jokes to be made. Everyone must be treated the same, and the work environment should be comfortable for everyone.

State laws

California is one of a handful of states that has specific employment laws to prevent discrimination against transgender individuals in the workplace. According to Outword Magazine, the Gender Nondiscrimination Act extended equal protection to everyone regardless of gender identity. The Act strengthens already existing laws and ensures every person knows they are protected in the state against discrimination because of their gender identity.

It is not always easy to detect gender discrimination. However, in some cases, such discrimination is blatantly clear. Employers must be held accountable to prevent such actions from being repeated. If you or someone you know has experienced discrimination due to gender identity, then you should consider contacting an attorney, such as Westrup & Associates.