State Restaurant Group Backs Transgender Workplace Project

The California Restaurant Association put its support behind a member-launched project that helps to connect transgender people with jobs in the restaurant industry.

The California Restaurant Association is backing a project started by one of its members that will help reduce the high rate of unemployment among the transgender community.

The California Trans Workplace Project, created by CRA member and trans woman Michaela Mendelsohn, works to connect transgender people with jobs in the restaurant industry. CRA hopes to bring Mendelsohn the restaurant audience she needs to get the project moving.

“If we can hopefully do something to make even a small dent in that high unemployment rate in the trans community, and it works out well for our members and for their businesses, and they end up with great employees because of the it, then it’s a win-win,” CRA VP of Marketing and Communications Sharokina Shams said. “It really works out for everybody.”

Mendelsohn, who owns six fast food franchises in Southern California, began purposefully reaching out to trans individuals in 2012 to hire them in her restaurants. She brought her idea of creating a formal program to help transgender people, whose unemployment rate is twice that of the general public, to CRA CEO, Jot Condie, during a conference this year, according to an NPR article.

“Our eyes were opened to the challenge within the transgender community as it relates to jobs,” Shams explained. CRA is now supporting Mendelsohn as she travels the state, sharing the project with restaurant owners.

Those who join the program receive training videos on trans-inclusivity in the workplace, a certification from California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, and trans-friendly job applications. Mendelsohn has also secured a grant from the state that would reimburse participating restaurants for a trans employee’s first 60 hours of on-the-job training.

“It’s important for us to be inclusive because I think from an ethical standpoint [we need] to make our workplaces open to any and all job seekers who are qualified,” Shams said. “But additionally, if you needed even more of a reason to be part of something like this, I think it also makes good business sense.”

While the project will help restaurants find new employees, as well as lower the trans unemployment rate and integrate these individuals into the workforce, Shams is hopeful the project could be a model for other industries and states to follow.

“I feel like we’ve managed to start an important conversation,” she said. “So I think the awareness alone has really been a big win. And if hopefully months from now, or a year or two from now, we even hear of other associations or other industries doing something similar, that would be great because if you begin it and end it with just restaurants, I don’t know how much of a dent you’re really making in that unemployment rate, but if it moves into other industries, now you’ve really done something.”

Journalist Katie Couric shown with project founder Michaela Mendelsohn (center) and some of her employees. (Handout photo)

Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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