California: The Transgender Work Opportunity Act

By Carrie Francis and Javier Torres

On October 15, 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 396, the Transgender Work Opportunity Act. Under the Transgender Work Opportunity Act, starting on January 1, 2018, all California employers with 50 or more employees must include gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation in the mandatory two-hour sexual harassment training that all supervisory employees are required to receive under existing law. Training must be given within six months of the employee taking a supervisory role, and must be repeated every two years.

Also, effective January 1, 2018, this new law requires every California employer to post the Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s poster on transgender civil rights.

Anti-discrimination laws for transgender employees have been in effect in California for many years. Regulations from the Department of Fair Employment and Housing make clear that employers must allow employees to use their preferred names and pronouns, cannot discriminate against employees who are transitioning genders, and reaffirm equal access to facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms. Moreover, an applicant or employee cannot be required to adhere to any grooming or dress standard which is inconsistent with an individual's gender identity or gender expression, unless the employer can establish business necessity. It is also unlawful for employers and other covered entities to inquire about or require documentation or proof of an individual’s sex, gender, gender identity, or gender expression as a condition of employment.

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