A former employee for a prominent wine magazine has filed a California transgender discrimination lawsuit against the publication and its parent company, alleging harassment, failure to prevent discrimination, and retaliation.
According to the Napa Valley Register, the employee worked as an assistant tasting coordinator and writer for the magazine. She says at the time she was hired, she was upfront about the fact that she would be needing some reasonable accommodations to receive periodic gender-affirming medical care. This included surgeries and subsequent recovery times.
Upon undergoing a second surgery, a supervisor reportedly expressed concerns about the time off she was taking for medical care and recovery. This was also around the time that she reported to her employer that a colleague had violated the company’s policies for wine scoring and blind tasting. (A reviewer allegedly changed several wine scores after repeatedly opening wine bags to peek at the label.)
A supervisor reportedly made numerous comments to/about the plaintiff that were demeaning, obscene, offensive, and derogatory – pertaining to her transgender status.
After undergoing a third gender-affirming surgery, she had a difficult recovery, which included substantial psychiatric and psychological impacts. She was recommended for inpatient psychiatric treatment. During this time, she was placed on involuntary administrative leave, and fired about a week later. This also canceled her medical insurance coverage.
Her lawsuit alleges transgender discrimination, as well as retaliation for reporting the policy violation.
The magazine, communications company, and other defendants say the allegations are without merit.
What Legal Protections Do Transgender Workers Have in California?
California law protects transgender employees, job applicants, unpaid interns, volunteers, and contractors from discrimination on the basis of:
- Gender identity.
- Gender expression.
- Sexual orientation.
- Disability. (Including when it involves treatment for gender-affirming care for transgender individuals.)
Private employers with 5+ workers cannot refuse to hire or promote someone because of their gender identity. That includes non-binary, as well as transgender individuals and anyone who expresses their gender in a way that is not stereotypical.
Workers also have the right to safe and appropriate restroom and locker facilities – including access to the one that corresponds to their gender identity. Where possible, employers should also offer easy access to a gender neutral restroom or locker facility.
Prospective employers in California can’t lawfully ask questions relating to one’s gender identity, gender transition history, or why the person changed their name. They should also refrain from asking questions about a person’s body or past/future surgeries.
Employees have the right to use and be addressed by the name and pronouns that correspond with their gender identity or expression.
The law also protects employees who complain about discrimination or harassment at work. Employers are banned from harassing or retaliating against workers who do so. Acts of threats of violence against transgender individuals are unlawful everywhere in California – including in the workplace.
If you are a transgender employee (or former employee) who has faced discrimination or unfair treatment at work in Los Angeles, we can help.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Newport Beach, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 714-937-2020.
THE RIGHTS OF EMPLOYEES WHO ARE TRANSGENDER OR GENDER NONCONFORMING, California Civil Rights Department
More Blog Entries:
Nonbinary Workers More Likely to Face California Employment Discrimination, March 11, 2023, Los Angeles LGBTQIA Discrimination Lawyer Blog