In January 2016, New York became the first state in the nation to implement regulations designed to specifically protect transgender people's rights, but transgender people may still face suspicion, contempt or bigotry in the workplace. Federal civil rights legislation prohibits workplace discrimination based on gender, religion or ethnic background, but these protections are not yet enjoyed by transgender workers in most states.
In a 2011 survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 90 percent of transgender workers said that they had suffered some sort of discrimination or harassment while on the job. While public awareness campaigns may be the best way to change societal views over time, strictly enforcing regulations could provide transgender workers with at least short-term relief.
The struggles of transgender individuals do not cease at the end of the working day. Data reveals that transgender people are more likely to be unemployed or living in poverty, and almost daily ridicule or abuse has made many transgender individuals reluctant to step forward and make complaints. Transgender people who are also undocumented immigrants may also decide not to come forward with complaints for fear of being deported.
In addition to not wanting to draw attention to themselves, transgender workers may also be hesitant to file grievances after suffering employment discrimination or harassment because they fear losing their jobs. Employment law attorneys may be able to put these fears to rest by explaining the penalties that employers could face for retaliating against workers who take action to assert their civil rights.