Governor Brown Signs Nation’s First Transgender Rights Training for Businesses to Boost Hiring and Inclusion in Workplace

October 15, 2017

SACRAMENTO, CA – Governor Brown signed the Transgender Work Opportunity Act (Senate Bill 396), authored by Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), to make California the first in the nation to require training that will help transgender workers to 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,” said Senator Ricardo Lara, vice chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus. “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 Transgender Work Opportunity Act takes a two-prong approach to encourage hiring of transgender workers through training and workforce development.

The law amends the existing two-hour sexual harassment training requirement in the Fair Housing and Employment Act to include training on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation for supervisory employees at companies with more than 50 employees.

The law also requires employers to display a poster developed by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing poster with information on transgender rights in the workplace. 

SB 396 will allow workforce development boards that assist people with employment barriers to target programs to help transgender workers, and to allow appointments to the statewide Workforce Development Board to include those who work with the LGBT community.

The Transgender Work Opportunity Act had bipartisan support in the Legislature and the backing of LGBT groups and major employers including Southern California Edison and TechNet, which represents many of the biggest companies in California’s innovation economy.

“Having legislation that protects trans and gender nonconforming individuals is important because it validates our existence,” said Bamby Salcedo, founder of TransLatin@. “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.”

“It is time that California take the lead in workplace inclusion for our over 200,000 transgender adults,” said Michaela Mendelsohn, CEO of Pollo Corp West and founder of TransCanWork. “Educating employers on the issues of cultural sensitivity provides the opportunity to take advantage of a whole new pool of employees they may not have considered before. Our four year test resulted in the hiring of over 50 transgender employees with over 25% making the pathway to management. SB396 is a "win win" proposition for all parties.

“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,” said Chloe Hollett-Billingsley, J.D., President & CEO of Hollett-Billingsley Consulting. “Absent the threat of harassment and discrimination, my underprivileged and underappreciated community can fully implement our skills to help strengthen California’s economy.” 

Unemployment for transgender workers is three times the national average, and research shows that nearly half (47%) of transgender workers have experienced an adverse job outcome such as being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion; 26% of transgender workers have lost jobs due to their gender identity; 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 recent study said more employer training is an important step to encourage hiring along with state laws to discourage harassment based on gender identity and gender expression.