gender identity discrimination laws california

However you identify, California law protects you against gender identity discrimination in the workplace.

Unfortunately, not all employers respect their employees’ legal rights, and some employees need a good advocate. That’s why we’re here.

At the Workplace Rights Law Group, LLP, we are invested in your story and have the skills and experience to successfully shield you from the harmful effects of workplace discrimination.

To get started with your workplace discrimination claim, contact us today.

What Is Gender Identity Discrimination?

How you identify your gender might have to do with your pronouns, how you prefer to dress, who you love, or all of the above.

We understand that each person’s experience is unique and should be treated with respect.

Gender identity discrimination, by definition, can occur in many ways.

An employer commits unlawful discrimination if they take the following actions against an employee or job applicant based on their gender identity:

  • Refusal to hire,
  • Job termination,
  • Demotion,
  • Refusal to promote,
  • Refusal to provide job benefits,
  • Enforcement of biased dress codes,
  • Harassment,
  • Refusal to appropriately address others’ harassment,
  • Unequal pay,
  • Refusal to train, and
  • Refusal to interview.

There are some exceptions for religious employers, but if you suffer any of this treatment from an employer because of your gender identity, you have a legal right to complain.

Who Is Protected Under California Gender Identity Discrimination Laws?

Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), your employer can’t make adverse employment decisions against you or harass you because of your membership in a protected class.

There are many protected classes under FEHA, including classes related to sex and gender, such as:

The FEHA also protects you from discriminatory actions of prospective employers during the job application process.

Who Is Protected Under Federal Gender Identity Discrimination Laws?

Unlike California law, federal employment law doesn’t recognize someone’s gender identity as a distinct protected class.

But, the Supreme Court’s interpretation of Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act recognizes discrimination against someone’s gender identity as sex discrimination in violation of Title VII.

An employer can be liable for unlawful gender discrimination under federal law if they harass or make adverse employment decisions against you before or after hiring you.

Gender Identity Discrimination Examples

Gender identity discrimination law violations differ from employer to employer, but let’s take a look at unlawful scenarios under three different categories:

  • Denial of employment benefits,
  • Biased rules (or biased enforcement of rules), and
  • Harassment.

These examples can help you identify whether your rights have been violated at work.

Denial of employment benefits

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) notes that employers can’t deny an employee a position that interfaces with the public just because of patrons’ preferences.

If your employer puts you in a position that hides you away from patrons or fires you because patrons voice a preference for employees with different gender identities, you likely have a substantial complaint on your hands.

Biased rules and biased enforcement of rules

You have protection against gender-biased employer rules at the state and federal levels.

In fact, the State of California specifically protects your gender identity when it comes to employee dress codes.

Under California law, your employer can have rules for reasonable appearance at work, but they must allow you to dress according to your gender identity.


Gender identity harassment can be one instance of seriously offensive conduct based on your gender, or it can be a pattern of offensive actions that interfere with your sense of safety or ability to work.

For instance, if your employer constantly makes jokes about your identity, constantly demeans you, or constantly uses the wrong pronouns after correction, you have a basis for a complaint.

What Are My Legal Remedies Against Gender Identity Discrimination?

If your employer violates federal employment discrimination laws, you have 180 days to file a complaint with the EEOC.

If you’ve endured discrimination under California gender identity discrimination laws, you have three years to file a complaint with the Department of Fair Employment or Housing. You can also file a civil lawsuit.

In a successful complaint, you could win:

  • Backpay,
  • Job reinstatement,
  • An order for your employer to change their practices,
  • Reimbursement for financial losses and emotional distress,
  • Training, and
  • Punitive damages.

Fighting your employer can be stressful and complicated, so it’s best to hire an experienced attorney to help make sure all of your rights are properly protected.

We Are Here to Tell Your Story and Protect Your Dignity

At Workplace Rights Law Group, we don’t want to see any employee mistreated.

Our California employment attorneys have over 75 years of combined experience, and we work hard to understand each client’s unique story and needs.

The proof is in the results: we have recovered millions on behalf of wronged employees. Speak to us immediately if you suspect discrimination in your workplace.

We can shield you from harm and help you recover what you’ve lost. 

You can reach us at 818-844-5200 or contact us online for a free case review.


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