FAQ: The Gender Nondiscrimination Act

The Gender Nondiscrimination Act will take effect on January 1st, 2012. This law clarifies existing legal protections by making gender identity and gender expression their own protected categories in specified non-discrimination laws.

Is discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression illegal?

Yes.  California has prohibited discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming people in housing and employment since 2004 and in public accommodations since 2005. Recently, the Gender Nondiscrimination Act made the law more clear by making “gender identity” and “gender expression” their own enumerated protected categories.

Why is the Gender Nondiscrimination Act important?

It is important for everyone in California – not just transgender people – to know and see clearly in the law that discrimination based upon gender identity and expression is illegal. Because the language of the law was not as clear as it could be, we found that California’s nondiscrimination laws were often not accessible to those who needed them the most. Employers, health care providers, housing authorities – even transgender and gender non-conforming people – were unaware that it is illegal to discriminate against transgender Californians. As a result, many people were in the dark about their rights, and many institutions were out of compliance regarding their responsibilities. This had an especially severe impact on low-income and trans communities of color who face high rates of employment discrimination.

Where are transgender and gender non-conforming Californians protected?

Discrimination against transgender and gender-nonconforming people is prohibited in virtually every area of life in California, including housing, employment, education, insurance, and public accommodations.  This means that you cannot be fired for being transgender, that a land lord cannot evict you from your apartment for being transgender, that you cannot be forced to use a restroom that does not match your gender identity at a restaurant, and that doctors are not allowed to deny you treatment because you are transgender.

How does the law affect federal employees?

Federal agencies are not subject to California’s non-discrimination laws. Because federal workers are employed by the federal government, they are not protected by California’s non-discrimination law. However, there is precedent that federal workers in California and in many other states are protected from discrimination based on sex stereotyping by Title VII .

May a church or church-run business/non-profit discriminate against me?

Under California law, there is no religious “exception” for discrimination in housing or public accommodations. This means that a religious-based hospital cannot deny you care just because you are transgender, nor can a religious-based homeless shelter refuse to house you as the gender you identify as.  HOWEVER, certain religious organizations and religious educational institutions are not subject to California (or federal) non-discrimination laws.

What are my rights when it comes to using the correct bathroom at work?

All employees have a right to safe and appropriate restroom facilities. This includes using a restroom that corresponds to the employee’s gender identity.

Can my employer make me wear a uniform that is not in line with my gender identity?

Employers have the right to implement gendered dress codes. Employees in California have the right to comply with the dress code that corresponds to their gender identity. An employer cannot force an employee to wear a uniform that does not conform to the person’s gender identity or expression.

Can a landlord refuse to rent to me, charge me a higher rent, or evict me because of my gender identity or expression?

No. The California law prohibits discrimination against tenants based on actual or perceived gender identity. This means that a landlord may not refuse to rent to a tenant, evict a tenant, falsely represent to a tenant that a unit is unavailable, or make any type of restriction in the price, terms or conditions of the rental unit based on the  gender identity of the tenant.

Do I have the right to use the correct restroom and sleeping facilities in a homeless shelter? And what if a shelter or group home’s dress code requires that I wear clothing that is not consistent with my gender identity?

Homeless shelters are subject to both federal and state anti-discrimination laws and therefore cannot discriminate based on gender identity or expression. This means that under California law, a homeless shelter cannot compel a person to dress in accordance with their birth gender, nor can it compel a person to be housed with or use the restrooms associated with members of their birth gender. In terms of where a person should be housed, generally, it is a best practice that they be housed with members of the sex they identify as, but if this is not possible then they must be provided with a reasonable accommodation, such as a private bedroom or restroom. A housing shelter also cannot compel a person to dress in a manner that does not comport with the person’s gender identity Where should I turn if I have a discrimination complaint?

A person can make a complaint about housing, employment or public accommodations (business or retail establishment) to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). Typically, the DFEH will investigate and make a finding as to whether a complaint of discrimination can be substantiated and can authorize a broad range of remedies.  To make a complaint to the DFEH about discrimination, call 800-884-1684 or visit the DFEH website: http://www.dfeh.ca.gov/Complaints_ComplaintProcess.htm

You can also make a federal complaint about employment by contacting the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at 800-669-4000 or online at http://www.eeoc.gov/contact/ And you can make a discrimination complaint about any federally-subsidized housing to the Department of Urban Development (HUD) at 800-669-9777 or online athttp://www.hud.gov/directory/800/800num3.cfm