What if you face discrimination over gender identity?

Frank S. Clowney III

When many people talk about gender discrimination or sex discrimination in the workplace, they think of a traditional setting where male workers discriminate against female workers. While this does happen, it is important to understand that this is certainly not the only way that it happens; the situation can be far more complex than that and it’s wise never to assume anything.

For example, gender identity and the gender someone identifies with may not fit this traditional model. Discrimination that arrises as a result is very much illegal under California law and workers should never have to suffer from it based on their identity.

Some instances of discrimination are very obvious. For instance, a worker with a certain gender identity could get fired or ignored for a promotion. They could also simply find it impossible to get a job due to discrimination in the hiring process.

At the same time, though, workers need to remember that little, repeated instances of harassment in the workplace can also show discrimination and may even create a hostile work environment. One of the more common examples is when people refuse to use someone’s preferred name or pronoun.

For example, if you identify as female but your boss mockingly calls you “sir” when addressing you, that could certainly make the workplace feel hostile on a daily basis. The same is true if you have transitioned and changed your name, but your boss refuses to use anything but your previous name.

All workers deserve respect. All workers have rights. Make sure you know what yours are.