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'Enough is enough' | LGBT employees of color disproportionately face discrimination at work

"One day, we will prevail and we will get the respect we deserve," said Landin Davis, a Black transgender person suing Kaiser Permanente for job discrimination.

SACRAMENTO, Calif — Landin Davis (they, them) is a Black transgender who identifies as non-binary or genderqueer. Davis said they faced workplace discrimination at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento while working as a representative in a call center from 2015 to 2018. 

"During this time, I was transitioning from female to male," Davis said. "I informed Kaiser Permanente that I was changing my name legally and going through the medical procedures as well."

As part of their gender transition and identity, Davis often wore gender non-conforming clothing on the job. Davis also requested for the employer to recognize their preferred gender pronouns, 'he' and 'him,' and legal name, 'Landin,' instead of their deadname, 'Laci.' 

Davis said they immediately began experiencing discrimination from employees and supervisors, including the misuse of gender pronouns, both verbally and written. Three years later, Davis says they were wrongfully terminated.

"Within two months, I was already written up at the call center," Davis said. "They, blatantly made jokes about me, about my attire. When it came to my needs being met medically and them respecting my choice to be called Landin and to be referred to by 'he' or 'him,' that's when things really turned left for me at Kaiser Permanente. Ever since the day I lost my job, my life has been completely ruined. All because of my gender identity, sexuality and sexual orientation."

Credit: Landin Davis

More than 8 million workers in the U.S. identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to a 2021 report by The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. It shows one in 10 LGBT workers experienced discrimination at work in the last year. That includes being fired, not hired or harassed based on sexual orientation or gender identity. 

LGBT employees of color were impacted the most, with 33% facing discrimination compared to their white LGBT counterparts at 26%. Based on the same research, LGBT employees of color were also more likely to report verbal harassment and being denied jobs. 

Transgender employees were also significantly more likely to experience discrimination at work, accounting for 48%. More specifically, over twice as many transgender employees reported not being hired because of their LGBT status compared to LGB employees. 

"Enough is enough," Davis said. "I had to get help. I had to find a way to fight because there are too many people from the LGBT community who suffer from the lack of respect, especially in the workplace."

After filing a workplace discrimination complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), Davis is now suing Kaiser Permanente for gender identity and gender expression discrimination, disability discrimination and retaliation. 

A lawsuit was filed in March 2022 in the Superior Court of California for the County of Sacramento. Attorney Chambord Benton-Hayes, Esq. (she/her), founder and principal of Benton Employment Law in Oakland, is representing Davis in the lawsuit against Kaiser Permanente, specifically The Permanente Medical Group., Inc.

"Landin stood at a crossroads when Kaiser—a medical institution—refused to acknowledge his gender identity correctly in a legal contract," Benton-Hayes said. "Not only was this action transphobic, but it was also disrespectful to Landin’s humanity. Landin was receiving the transition treatments through Kaiser, so not only was Landin an employee, Landin was a patient. Landin not only lost his job, but also his medical insurance so he could no longer afford to complete his gender transition surgery. Landin has been stuck in gender purgatory since 2018."

Credit: Landin Davis

Davis is encouraging other people in LGBTQIA+ communities to speak out and take a stand against discrimination, especially in the workplace. 

"It's misleading," Davis said. "You think that you're working for a company that's inclusive, then one minute, you turn around and they're against you. It's really hurtful. I felt humiliated. I felt like I was a joke. It's just not right. That's why I decided to fight for my rights. If anybody from the LGBT community can hear me, just never give up, believe in yourself and fight until the end because one day we will prevail and we will get the respect we deserve."

Kaiser Permanente sent the ABC10 Race and Culture team a statement regarding the case, in full, stating: 

"While we cannot comment specifically on this matter, any kind of discrimination would be inconsistent with our steadfast commitment to creating a highly inclusive, engaged, and psychologically safe workplace where everyone has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential and use their diverse perspectives and strengths to support our mission. We are proud to be recognized for the 16th consecutive year by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, which awarded Kaiser Permanente the highest possible score on its 2022 Corporate Equality Index and named us a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality for our industry-leading equity, inclusion, and diversity practices and for our continuing work to provide the highest levels of opportunity and support to all of our employees. We continue to work to find new ways to provide personalized and comprehensive care and support for our transgender and nonbinary members and employees, while providing a safe and welcoming environment."

California law prohibits employers from discriminating against a worker based on gender identity or gender expression. If you've experienced discrimination in the workplace, you can file a complaint with the DFEH. 

According to the DFEH, when someone files a discrimination complaint, the agency evaluates the facts and decides whether to accept the case for investigation. If the case is accepted, DFEH independently investigates the facts and the legal issues. 

That includes reviewing respondents' responses to complaints and other information and evidence that complainants and respondents submit, among other things. DFEH attempts to resolve the dispute in appropriate cases. DFEH may also take legal action. For more information on the complaint process, visit the official DFEH website.

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