California Governor Signs Bill Ensuring Equal Benefits for Transgender Employees

SB 703 takes effect on January 1, 2016.

By Melanie Nathan, October 07, 2015.

Senator Mark Leno
Senator Mark Leno

SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown signed landmark legislation today that prohibits state agencies from doing business with companies that fail to offer transgender employees the same health care coverage and benefits they provide all other workers. Senate Bill 703, authored by Senator Mark Leno, builds on existing California law that requires gender nondiscrimination in employee benefits. Specifically, it prohibits a state agency from entering into a contract in the amount of $100,000 or more with any company that does not offer equal benefits based on an employee’s gender identity.

“California law already stipulates that employers cannot deny transgender people health care and other benefits, but a loophole in state law has allowed companies that contract with the state to refuse equal health coverage,” said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. “This bill closes that loophole. Denying equal benefits to employees at the same company based on gender identity is harmful and wrong. It also can jeopardize employee health and strain publicly-funded programs that fill in the gaps when employers don’t provide the same benefits to everyone.”

SB 703 is co-sponsored by the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Equality California and Transgender Law Center.

“In signing SB 703, Governor Brown has made California the first state in the nation to refuse to contract with businesses and other entities that discriminate against their transgender employees in benefits,” said NCLR Government Policy Director Geoff Kors. “This legislation will not only help transgender employees, but will also help California businesses since California already prohibits health insurance carriers from denying transgender individuals benefits offered non-transgender individuals and will thus level the playing field with entities from out of state that bid for contracts with California. Once again, California’s governor and Legislature are leading the nation in ending discrimination and ensuring that taxpayer funds don’t go to those who discriminate.”

“When transgender people are denied equal access to health care, we are singled out for serious health risks and financial hardship,” said Transgender Law Center Executive Director Kris Hayashi. “Providing equal benefits makes economic sense and will help protect transgender workers and our families.”

“With a third of transgender people reporting having been denied healthcare coverage, this law is an important step in improving the health of all members of the LGBT community,” said Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California. “It also sends an important message. If you want to do business in California, you have to treat all your employees equally.”

SB 703 takes effect on January 1, 2016.


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