Finding work is often an unpleasant challenge for people who identify as transgender. That’s why, NPR reports, the unemployment rate of individuals who identify as such is currently at twice that of the general population. Finding work is hard for everyone, yes, but it’s especially difficult when you’re a member of a minority group that’s historically been subjected to heavy employment discrimination to begin with. In light of all of this, California is becoming the first state to formally create a “large-scale” program to help transpeople secure jobs.
The California Trans Workplace Project, founded by Michaela Mendelsohn, a trans woman, activist, and business leader, aims to connect transpeople to full-time employment and “increase trans inclusivity in the workplace” in the hospitality industry and beyond. Moreover, the project hopes to promote the state of California as “a truly transgender positive workplace” and provide a blueprint for the rest of the country to follow in order to make all American workplaces as inclusive, educated, and welcoming as possible. That’s especially important in The Golden State where more than 220,000 transgender people live. Mendelsohn has made it a point to hire transpeople at the El Pollo Loco franchises she owns and says that between 8 to 10 percent of the people who work for her are transgender.
This program comes at an important time, because while there’s more understanding about the transgender community in America than ever before, employers are still finding reasons not to hire trans workers. In fact, a video posted by the Trans Employment Program in May, highlighted some of the excuses trans people have heard about why they haven’t been chosen for a job and unpacks exactly why the assumptions employers often make about trans individuals are so misguided.
The California Trans Workplace Project will also help bridge the gap between employees and employers by offering education and certifications for employers, mentoring the job-seekers, and “assisting other LGBT organizations across the U.S. with similar programs.”
As Grubstreet points out, there are some very good reasons (outside of getting awesome and qualified workers) for employers to join the program as well. The California Restaurant association, for example, is offering its members some important incentives for joining up:
Participating restaurants get a certification from the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and there’s a grant that can pay for 60 hours of new hirees’ wages. Part of the program also includes all-important training on properly managing customers who won’t interact with a trans server…
Let’s hope this program is a rousing success, as it’s an important step forward in civil rights.