Sen. Lara introduces bill with nation’s first Transgender Work Opportunity to expand anti-harassment training

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SACRAMENTO – Responding to high unemployment among transgender workers, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced the Transgender Work Opportunity Act (Senate Bill 396). Senate Bill 396 combats discrimination and encourages greater inclusion of transgender Californians in the work force.

The Transgender Work Opportunity Act will make California the first in the nation to require training about gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.

Research shows that nearly half (47 percent) of transgender workers have experienced an adverse job outcome such as being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion; 26 percent of transgender workers have lost jobs due to their gender identity; and transgender women of color are seven times more likely to be living at very low incomes of less than $10,000 per year.

“Transgender workers have so much to give to our businesses and economy yet too many struggle with high unemployment because of discrimination and lack of opportunity,” said Lara. “Education is the first step toward inclusion, and the Transgender Work Opportunity Act will help California businesses to open their doors to these valuable workers. I applaud our business trailblazers who are showing the way to hire transgender workers.”

The Transgender Work Opportunity Act amends the existing two-hour sexual harassment training requirement in the Fair Housing and Employment Act to include training on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation for supervisory employees at companies with more than 50 employees.

SB 396 also requires businesses to post a poster developed by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing on transgender rights.

“We applaud the efforts by Senator Lara toward equality in the workplace for transgender individuals,” said Michaela Mendelsohn, CEO of Pollo West Corp. and founder of TransCanWork. “In a four-year case study within our own restaurant group, we hired over 40 transgender employees. Over 25 percent made the pathway to management. This spoke well of their efforts to take advantage of being on an equal footing for perhaps the first time in their work careers. The stories we were told of their negative prior work experiences were heart breaking.”

There are over 220,000 transgender adults in the state of California, according to a 2016 study by the Williams Institute at UCLA.

“Not only is it our moral obligation to protect this growing community but the future of our evolving workforce will depend on their successful inclusion,” added Mendelsohn.

On July 1 the Department of Fair Employment and Housing will release new guidance to give clarity on transgender rights to workers and employers. SB 396 builds on that path-breaking guidance and the work of business leaders to break down barriers to employment for transgender workers.

A recent study said more employer training is an important step to encourage hiring along with state laws to discourage harassment based on gender identity and gender expression.

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