Legal Pad: No Easy Answers - The Transgender Employee, Part 1

As our society evolves, so must our ability to address issues of gender identity. In this two-part series, we take a critical look at what the law says - and doesn't say - about the hiring and management of transgender employees.
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If the tide of relationship recognition laws sweeping the U.S. is any barometer, Americans are becoming more supportive of the gay and lesbian communities. Every state now has marriage equality laws for same-sex couples, or comprehensive civil union or domestic partnership laws.

Despite common perception among the general public, however, the right to relationship recognition does not equate to freedom from discrimination. Unfortunately, we still see such discrimination evident in family leave laws, foster care and adoption policies, and medical decision-making rights, to name just a few.

Yes, there are laws that apply to discrimination in employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity — laws that day spa owners and managers need to understand and be ready to implement in the workplace. The following federal laws were put into place to protect workers against unfair practices:

  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which establishes federal minimum wage and overtime pay.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), which governs workplace safety.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires the granting of 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation and public accommodations.

For a spa owner, this is a lot to know - but there's more. First of all, the above isn't a comprehensive list of the federal laws, and second, it doesn't include state law counterparts, which may be more restrictive. One advantage of federal legislation is that it can be consistently applied across the country. However, as far as discrimination protection for the LGBT community, we shouldn't expect any new federal legislation any time soon. In fact, most current protections are found at the state level.

Continue reading this story in our May digital edition!