Although society has become more understanding about gender identity, that does not mean an individual’s decision to change gender has gained complete acceptance. If you have undergone this transition, you may find that certain people do not approve of this change. If those people include your employers or fellow employees, that can create a challenge in the workplace. If you suspect you have been fired because you are transgender, it is time to consult with an attorney, who can examine your situation and determine whether or not you may have a case against your employer for wrongful termination.
California Fair Housing and Employment Act
The California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FHEA) prohibits employers from firing employees just because they are transgender. Whether or not a person has had surgery to change gender is immaterial. California law bars discrimination and harassment in employment based on gender, gender expression and gender identity.
California’s FHEA does not apply to federal workers. However, that does not mean federal employees are left unprotected. Discrimination against transgender people violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to a 2012 decision by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. That section of the Civil Rights Act does not allow employers to discriminate against employees based on race, sex, color, religion and national origin.
Certain employees are not covered by FEHA. This includes those working for a company with four employees or less, unless an employee claims harassment. Employees of nonprofit or religious organizations do not fall under FEHA jurisdiction.
An employer’s dress codes may trigger transgender discrimination, but that is not a reason to fire an employee. In California, transgender individuals have the right to dress to the code conforming to gender identity, including the wearing of uniforms.
Proving Why You Were Terminated
Your employer is not likely to tell you explicitly that you were terminated for being transgender. However, if you strongly suspect, or even know, that is the reason, you must prove the firing was the result of discrimination. Your attorney will discuss your work history with you, and will ask when the atmosphere became discriminatory. Your lawyer may want to know:
- Did you work for your employer under the different gender?
- If you did work under your former gender, did you experience problems?
- Did any management changes occur, after which you perceived discrimination?
- What were your employee reviews prior to transitioning, and did they change?
California law provides remedies for those terminated or discriminated against because of gender identity. You may be eligible for reinstatement, back pay and promotion, along with payment of your attorney fees. You may also receive damages for emotional distress, along with punitive damages.
You have already made a brave decision in changing your gender identity. It is important to stand up for your rights if you think you lost your job due to discrimination. Our attorney’s will let you know if you have a legitimate case against your employer. Learn more by calling our office at 916-446-2000 or sending us an email.