Although California residents are most likely aware of the strides that have been made for transgender people, workplace discrimination against this segment of the LGBTQ community is unfortunately still rampant. Employers should take a front-line approach to stop such discrimination in its tracks when it occurs at their companies.
Earlier this month, the California Labor Commission announced its ruling in a case that will likely result in consequences far beyond the immediate scope of the parties involved. Specifically, the commission ruled that an Uber driver based in California is an actual employee of the company, not “simply” a contractor. Although this seems like a straightforward and narrow ruling, it could have wide implications.
An interesting study recently came out in the journal "Gender and Society." Researchers from McGill University tracked data about Canadians' earnings, sexual orientation and relationship status and found that gay men who have partners earn an average of 5 percent less than heterosexual men with partners. Moreover, lesbians with partners tend to earn about 8 percent more than heterosexual women with partners.
Some kinds of workplace discrimination are easier to identify than others. There are certainly instances where bosses tell their employees that they are being fired, demoted or otherwise illegally discriminated against or harassed because they belong to a protected class of individuals. For example, if a boss insists that a woman cannot do a specific job because she is a woman, this situation is almost certainly an instance of sex discrimination.
When individuals experience sexual harassment or illegal discrimination in the workplace, they may opt to file claims with the government. Depending on the actions that the government takes or chooses not to take, the workers may ultimately sue to enforce their rights in court. Oftentimes, this kind of concrete action not only helps workers obtain compensation and justice for the harm they have suffered, but it also tends to help deter employers from treating other workers in the same kinds of unacceptable ways.
Several years ago, an employee of the United Parcel Service became pregnant. On the advice of her physician, she requested that she be placed on lighter duty for the remainder of her pregnancy so that she could avoid lifting packages weighing more than 20 pounds. Rather than grant this request, UPS insisted that the worker take an unpaid leave of absence from her position. This was a particularly unjust course of action given that UPS had granted a great number of other employees accommodations related to their physical challenges.
Someday, we will live in a society where nobody’s career is hampered by prejudice based on race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or anything of the things that makes each of us unique. But as we all know, prejudice is still a problem in California.