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What is Gender Identity Discrimination?

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Acceptance and recognition for members of the LGBTQ+ community have grown in previous years. But some people can still end up experiencing discrimination, which could have a huge impact on their mental well-being. Compared to straight people, nearly twice as many people who aren’t straight get discriminated against for their gender identity. And in most cases, this happens in the workplace. 

Currently, no law prohibits gender identity discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), however, has interpreted the federal law’s prohibition against sex discrimination to include discrimination against gender identity. Moreover, over 20 states, including California outlaw discrimination because of gender identity.

Defining Gender Identity

It’s easy to confuse sex, gender, and gender identity. But they’re three different things:

  • Sex is a label (either male or female) assigned by a doctor at birth based on a person’s genitals and chromosomes.
  • Gender, on the other hand, is a social status and a set of expectations from society about their behavior, characteristics, and thoughts. Rather than being about body parts, gender is about how a person should act because of their sex.
  • Gender identity is how a person feels inside and how they express their gender through their clothes, behavior, and personal appearance. 

Why Does Gender Discrimination Happen?

Members of the LGBTQ+ community experience discrimination because of factors such as heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is the expectation that being straight is “normal” and that people should always be straight and have opposite-sex relationships. 

People with heteronormative attitudes and beliefs see the LGBTQ+ community as less important, leading to limited opportunities and discrimination of their rights.

Is Gender Identity Discrimination Illegal?

At present, 20 states prohibit gender identity discrimination by private employers. California gender identity discrimination laws, in particular, protect LGBTQ+ employees from this type of discrimination. Moreover, some city and local governments also ban discrimination based on gender identity. 

Spotting the Signs

Discrimination towards LGBTQ+ people can be obvious or subtle. Both types can make anyone feel hurt, unwanted, or unimportant. Some red flags include:

  • Making assumptions about a person’s gender identity
  • Using offensive terms like fag, dyke, tranny, and the like
  • Firing an employee because they made a gender transition
  • Verbal or physical abuse about a person’s gender identity or body
  • Refusing to offer someone a job or promotion because they identify as LGBTQ+
  • Denying employee access to a restroom corresponding to their gender identity
  • “Outing” someone be telling other people about their gender identity without their permission

The EEOC considers discrimination against an employee because he or she is transgender a form of illegal sex discrimination as stated in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. As a result, members of the LGBTQ+ community are protected against employment bias. 

Gender Identity Discrimination at Work

Anyone who is currently transitioning their gender, or are facing questions regarding their gender can fall victim to gender identity discrimination in the workplace. Since California has laws in place that safeguard employees, they can stay safe from the following types of discrimination:


Some transgender employees are more prone to be the subject of jokes, unkind comments, and threats related to their gender identity. This unwanted behavior counts as harassment and should be reported immediately. 

Dress and Grooming Codes

Employers should respect the dress and appearance rules that apply to the gender they identify with. As a result, no company can require an employee to wear a men’s uniform if the worker has informed that they identify as female, for instance. 

Restroom Facilities

Refusing to allow an employee to use a restroom that doesn’t conform to their gender identity is discriminatory. Workers should be allowed to use a restroom that conforms to their gender identity. Some offices may even designate a unisex restroom to help employees feel more comfortable about using the toilet.

Pronoun and Gender Misuse

Some co-workers or managers may deliberately use the wrong pronouns for their transgender employees. While slipping into the wrong pronouns can be a genuine mistake, some may do it on purpose. And constant misuse of gendered terms could connote hostility. 

Paperwork Problems

Transitioning from one gender to another may require amending legal identification documents to reflect changes in name and gender. Some states allow people to change their name by “common law,” but others might want to formally change their name in court. Updating paperwork isn’t always a hassle-free process, however.

Consult an Experienced Gender Discrimination Lawyer 

If you feel like you are being discriminated against because of your gender identity, seek legal advice from an experienced gender discrimination lawyer. At Mesriani Law Group, our gender discrimination lawyers are well-versed in laws that prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. We can help you identify your legal rights, strengthen your claims, decide what strategy you should take moving forward. Get in touch with us to schedule a FREE consultation.

About the Author
Picture of Rodney Mesriani
Rodney Mesriani

Rodney Mesriani is the principal partner of the Los Angeles and Santa Monica based Mesriani Law Group. He specializes in personal injury and employment law while also being an accomplished litigator and trial attorney. Rodney is an aggressive negotiator and a well-known and respected attorney in the areas of practice he specializes in.

He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from California State University Northridge before attending Southwestern School of Law where he received his Juris Doctorate. While being an accomplished personal injury and employment lawyer, Rodney Mesriani has made it a point to attend numerous State Sponsored MCLE events and seminars over the years as a law practitioner to be informed of the latest laws and litigation strategies.



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