Transgender workers throughout the state facing employment barriers will soon be receiving help following Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of the Transgender Work Opportunity Act last Friday.
Senate Bill 396, which was authored by state Sen. Ricardo Lara who represents a portion of Long Beach and is the vice chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, makes California the first in the country to require training meant to help transgender workers overcome high unemployment and lack of inclusion.
“Businesses are starting to embrace the skills and talents of our transgender workers, but lack of opportunity still holds too many back from being equal partners in California’s growing economy,” Lara said in a statement Monday. “Attitudes are changing and the Transgender Work Opportunity Act will speed up the inclusion of people who have so much to give to our state.”
The new law amends the existing two-hour sexual harassment training requirement in the Fair Housing and Employment Act, according to Lara’s office, to include training on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation for supervisory employees at companies with more than 50 employees.
Employers will also be required to display a poster developed by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing with information on transgender rights in the workplace.
Workforce development boards that help people with employment barriers will be allowed, under the law, to target programs to help transgender workers and allow appointments to the statewide Workforce Development Board to include those who work with the LGBT community, according to Lara’s office.
“The Transgender Work Opportunity Act will make California the first state to mandate LGBTQ+ employment diversity training, thus promoting inclusive workplaces that aim to correct the economic inequities burdening transgender residents,” Chloe Hollett-Billingsley, J.D., president and CEO of Hollett-Billingsley Consulting and a Long Beach resident, said in a statement. “Absent the threat of harassment and discrimination, my underprivileged and underappreciated community can fully implement our skills to help strengthen California’s economy.”
According to a 2011 study by the Center for American Progress, anywhere from 15 percent to 43 percent of gay people have experienced some form of discrimination and harassment at the workplace and transgender women of color are seven times more likely to be living at very low incomes of less than $10,000 per year.
A 2013 report by the Movement Advancement Project recommended strengthening workplace protections at the federal, state and local levels, among other solutions.
“Having legislation that protects trans and gender nonconforming individuals is important because it validates our existence,” said Bamby Salcedo, founder of TransLatin@, in a statement. “Having specific workforce programs and organizations that provide pathways to the workforce will change the landscape of the trans and gender nonconforming communities in California. It is time that organizations get educated about how amazing we are and the great work force that we can be for amazing great companies.”
The bill had bipartisan support in the Legislature and the backing of LGBT groups and major employers including Southern California Edison and TechNet, according to Lara’s office.