Earlier this week, President Obama announced that he would take executive action to protect transgender workers from employment discrimination. At the White House’s annual LGBT Pride Month celebration, he said that if Congress will not act to protect transgender workers from discrimination he would take certain executive actions.

Although this may sound like great news for transgendered individuals, the executive actions he is proposing are somewhat limited in scope. One executive order which he is proposing prohibits federal employees from being discriminated against based on gender identity. He also is planning on signing a second order to prohibit federal contractors from discriminating in their employment practices on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation.

If signed, these proposed executive orders will be the first federal laws to protect transgendered individuals from discrimination in the workplace. In 1998, President Clinton signed an executive order which prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation among federal contractors, but that order did not apply to discrimination based on gender identity.

Although these orders were celebrated by the LGBT community, in many cases gay or transgendered individuals may still be legally discriminated against in the workplace solely because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Under federal law, discrimination in the workplace based on many characteristics is illegal, including age, disability, sex, religion, national origin, and more. However, under federal law, employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is currently legal. If a business refuses to hire, or decides to fire or demote an employee because he or she is gay or transgendered, in most states that is legal.

Fortunately, several states have laws in place to protect gay and transgendered individuals from workplace discrimination. In California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act prohibits harassment and discrimination in employment because of gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation, among other things. Under that law, if you are discriminated against at work because of one of those reasons, you can file complaints with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, as well as potentially suing in court. Many private companies, particularly large companies, also have internal policies which prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender expression.

For those individuals who do not live in a state with state protections in place for gay and transgendered individuals, or who are not federal employees or work for federal contractors, you still have legal rights. It’s illegal for businesses to discriminate or harass employees on the basis of sex, which may extend some protections to gay and transgendered individuals. Also, although federal law doesn’t explicitly prohibit workplace discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has held that discrimination based on gender identity is sexual discrimination and can be covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC has also held that stereotyping based on sex can be considered sexual discrimination.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employees should be judged in the workplace on the basis of their performance, not because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. If a worker is discriminated against because of sexual orientation or gender identity, he or she should take all legal actions possible. This will not only help the individual obtain his or her job back and/or to obtain compensation for damages, but will also help prevent companies from discriminating against other workers in the future.

If you have been discriminated against in an employment situation on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation, you may have legal rights under both state and federal laws. Call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland employment lawyer, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She works with employees in the San Francisco-Oakland area, including Fairfield, Hayward, Fresno, San Jose and Berkeley, who have faced workplace discrimination. Call today to learn more.

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