These Restaurants Just Made a Huge Move to Expose Transgender Discrimination

October 19th 2016

Danielle DeCourcey

Members of the transgender community can face a wide range of challenges and discrimination: From hate-filled violence to daily prejudice, which can inflict lasting damage.

However, a group of restaurant owners is taking a stand against employment discrimination.

The 22,000 member California Restaurant Association, launched The California Transgender Workplace Project to connect restaurants with transgender workers, according to NPR. The project's website says its mission is to "promote California as a 'truly transgender positive workplace' and create a model for the remainder of the country." It's the largest project of it's kind in the U.S. according to NPR.

The founder of the project Michaela Mendelsohn, a transgender woman and multi-restaurant owner, pitched the work placement idea to her friend and head of the the CRA Jot Condie.

"I considered myself, as a person, somebody who had my head in the sand when it comes to what they're really going through," Condie said to NPR. "This is a civil rights issue."

The truth about what transgender people are "going through" in the workforce is staggering.

In 2015, a coalition of multiple progressive and pro-trans organizations produced a report titled "Paying an Unfair Price: The Financial Penalty for Being Transgender in America." The report found that transgender people face huge financial obstacles.

  • Transgender people are twice as likely to be unemployed.
  • When transgender people are employed, 78 percent report being harassed or discriminated against in their workplace.
  • The transgender population is four times more likely to have a household income of less than $10,000 a year. The federal poverty level for one person in 2016 is $11,880.
  • Despite the fact that trans people are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed, the transgender community is one of the most educated groups in the U.S. About 47 percent of trans Americans have completed at least an undergraduate degree.
  • Transgender people of color are the most at risk for financial insecurity within their own racial group. Asian and Pacific Islander transgender people are six times more likely to report rates of extreme poverty. About 9 percent of Black Americans reported extreme poverty, but the rate for transgender Black Americans was significantly higher at 34 percent.
  • Transgender workers of color also have higher rates of job loss and employment discrimination compared to white transgender workers.

Employers should stand up for their transgender employees.

The California Transgender Workplace Project also offers trainings for managers on on transgender issues and aims to promote similar programs in other parts of the country. Mendelsohn, the founder of the project, hosted a training seminar about transgender employees at the Western Foodservice and Hospitality Expo in downtown Los Angeles in August. She said that restaurant bosses should be ready to step in for their transgender employees if necessary.

"You know, you always hear the thing, 'The customer's always right'," she said to NPR. "In my restaurants, the customer's always right unless they attack you personally."

Related: The 20th Transgender Person Has Been Murdered This Year