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June 2, 2011 / J. Shaw

New Push for Cross-Dressing at Work

By Pete Griffin….A California bill working its way through the state  legislature providing more protection for transgender individuals in the  workplace could allow for cross-dressing employees to wear whatever they want to  work, despite workplace dress codes.

AB 887, which passed through the state’s Assembly on  May 16, is causing a stir among critics who feel it’s raising the identity of a  transgender individual to the same level as one’s ethnicity or gender.

“If you talk to the average (human resources)  manager and ask if there would be any disturbances if a man came dressed as a  woman one week and then as a man the next, I think the (HR) rep would say ‘yeah,  this would be disruptive to the workplace,’ ” said Brad Daucus, a California  attorney and president of the Pacific Justice Institute. “It will inherently  cause customers to be uncomfortable and not want to do business.”

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego)  and co-authored by Equality California and the Transgender Law Center, the bill  would strengthen civil rights protections in the areas of employment and housing  for individuals based not only on the gender of the person’s assigned sex at  birth, but also by a person’s “gender expression.”

Atkins, Equality California and the Transgender Law  Center did not return’s requests for comment.But in a press release from May 17, Atkins said she  was “grateful” for the support the bill received from her Assembly colleagues  and will “continue fighting for this important legislation to become a  law.”

Critics like Daucus feel the law would limit the  authority of employers who disagree with an employee’s cross-dressing  attire.

“This is not dealing with harassment, we already  have laws in California that address harassment,” said Daucus. “This is about  employers having to deal with employees who dress in a way that employers know  will cost them either in terms of customers, employer morale, or employee  operational efficiency.”

Daucus is not limiting its effect to just the sales  industry. He believes businesses, such as child day care centers and retail  clothing stores, would be affected by cross-dressing employees who might have  the upper hand when it comes to legal disputes with employers regarding their  clothing choices.

“If you have a mother taking her son to a store for  back-to-school shopping and the retail clerk is a man dressed like a woman, the  mother is going to take her son and go to another store,” said Daucus.

May, an assistant director for a Christian-run  daycare center in Calif., who did not want to give her last name or the name of  her day care, agrees that the law could have an impact.

“Even if we change our hair, the kids notice right  away. If one day a teacher comes dressed like a man and then the next day as a  woman, the kids will wonder ‘What’s going on?'”

Shawn Jackson — a California-based attorney and  consultant for the California Business Development Center  — a business  development association in Rohnert Park, Calif. — says the law could bring some  changes in the workplace, but doesn’t think a business will necessarily lose  clients because an employee decides to cross-dress. But he also understands that  everyone doesn’t necessarily share this viewpoint.

“People are flawed creatures and will have their  biases and prejudices,” said Jackson. “You have to weigh the advantages and  disadvantages. There’s going to be people who say ‘you hire a transgender, I’m  not coming in.’ You can be legally right, you can be spiritually right. But from  a business standpoint, you just shot yourself in the foot.”

The bill still needs approval from the state’s  Senate.

Daucus hopes California legislators take into  account all sides of the issue.

“Whatever law is passed, it shouldn’t just look upon  the introspect of one specific micro-interest group,” said Daucus. “The  legislators need to make sure that all of those who are impacted by the  legislation are taken into consideration.”


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