Federal law protects a limited number of groups from employment discrimination. Some states have chosen to expand protections for other groups not covered by federal law, including transgender people, whose struggle for equality has been more widely recognized in recent years.
However, the states that provide these protections are still in the minority, and unfortunately Pennsylvania residents are not protected from discrimination of this kind.
This week a law protecting transgender residents from discrimination went into effect in Massachusetts. The policy change was a welcome relief for many who had been wrongfully terminated or harassed in the workplace because of their gender identity.
One man talked to reporters this week about his experience of discrimination when he transitioned from living as a woman to living as a man. His employer told him after his transition that he was no longer effective at his job and fired him. He was shocked, since before that he had gotten positive reviews and his coworkers didn't seem affected by his transition to living as a man.
"I was such a hard worker," he told reporters this week "And they only cared about this one thing that really had nothing to do with my job."
The new law bars employment discrimination as well as housing, education and lending discrimination against transgender people. It also adds being transgender to the list of groups protected by hate crime laws.
We've written about this issue before, since federal law does not protect against discrimination based on gender identity or sexuality. Massachusetts is the 16th state to enact protections of this kind and hopefully the increased awareness of the issue will lead many other states including Pennsylvania to follow suit.
Source: Boston Globe, "New Mass. Law backs transgender residents," Adam Sege, July 2, 2012.