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Let’s start this monthly SVALA luncheon recap with a huge THANK YOU to Kellie Narayan, our Programs & Education Chair. We would not have these terrific luncheons and topics if it were not for her hard work in hunting down dynamic speakers and interesting topics.

Speaker, Samson Elsbernd

Speaker, Samson Elsbernd

Thank you, Kellie!

Back to the luncheon recap: no, the August luncheon was not really about sex – it was about gender (did I get that right?). Samson Elsbernd, an attorney with Wilke Fleury, explained there is a difference between the two and it can make quite a difference when using one word or the other on a job application.

Samson’s presentation on “Simply Sex . . . Sex, Gender, Gender Identity, Gender Expression in the Workplace, and Tips for Eliminating Bias” showed us not only how well-versed he is on the topic but also how a sensitive subject like this can be handled with maturity and grace. Not only that, but Samson’s pop-culture acumen was impressive! I mean, how often do you go to a luncheon that somehow ties together Twisted Sister, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Mrs. Doubtfire?

2016 - August luncheon - dee ann and terrapin

DeeAnn MacLaughlin, Nathan Johanson, Jean-Paul Taylor

There were more questions than usual from the audience which indicated to me we were engaged in learning more about this topic. One interesting question was about the seeming increased prevalence of transgender individuals today than in previous generations. Are there more transgender individuals now or are people just more willing to express who they are than they were fifty years ago? Samson didn’t have a definitive answer to that question but it is very likely people are more willing to “come out” as their true selves today.

However, the social issues and our personal beliefs about this topic are of no matter when it comes to the law. While I personally think it is a step in the right direction when we allow people to freely express who they truly are, others may disagree or have some level of discomfort with it.

2016 - august luncheon - debbie and julie 2

Debbie Jordan and Julie Denker

When it comes to the law and managing our firms, our personal beliefs need to be set aside. What is important is that we are following the rules and treating employees equally, fairly and with respect. Not every employer does, though, as evidenced by Samson’s statement that he is kept very busy with FEHA claims.

Whether a firm is currently dealing with these gender identity and transgender issues in the workplace now or will be in the future, Samson advised training and educating managers and employees now so they will be well-prepared for when the situation does present itself.

Many thanks to Samson for sharing his knowledge on this important topic.

Coming up: The September 28 luncheon will feature Mary Grandy of EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants who will present on 360° Risk Management for Law Firms.