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LGBT rights at work: California issues new guidelines

Are employees who identify as transgender protected in the workplace? Until recently in California, the answer was likely no. New guidelines are aiming to change that.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing recently announced new protections to individuals who identify as transgender. Beginning Feb. 17, 2016, the DFEH is mandating that all workplaces follow the new issued guidelines in the workplace.

The new guidelines will protect transgender individuals at work in many new ways. Employers should follow the new guidelines when interviewing potential employees. It may be appropriate to ask a potential employee about their employment history and request references, but employers are prohibited from discussing an applicant's marital status or asking for their spouse's name. Employers also should not ask an applicant:

  • How the potential employee is related to the members of their household.
  • Questions about any parts of their body or if they have future plans for surgeries.

The guidelines also address dress code requirements at work and how all employees should receive fair treatment. This means employees must be allowed to dress in a way that is suitable for their individual gender identity. If a dress code is required, the employee is to dress accordingly and be treated accordingly.

Unfair treatment or harassment due to an employee's gender identity is illegal in California. Employees should be aware of these new guidelines and know they have rights. Employees who have been discriminated against or treated unfairly should consider contacting an attorney to explore their legal options. They may be able to file a claim against their employer for discrimination or harassment now that transgender employees are protected under the law.

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