California Restaurants Cooperate to Launch Transgender Jobs Program


Calling it a “civil rights issue,” a restaurant group in California has announced the creation of the nation’s first transgender jobs program, a report says.

Calling the program the California Transgender Workplace Project, the program was created by restaurant chain owner Michaela Ivri Mendelsohn, a transgender activist who owns several El Pollo Loco fast food locations in and around Los Angeles.

The national Restaurant Association backs the program, which made its debut at this year’s Western Foodservice and Hospitality Expo in downtown Los Angeles, NPR reported.

Mendelsohn, who completed the change in 2004, has been a transgender restaurant owner since first going into business in 1988, and notes that her El Pollo Loco locations currently have about a ten percent transgender employee rate.

Jot Condie, head of the California Restaurant Association (CRA), worked with Mendelsohn to launch the transgender employment program, claiming the matter is a “civil rights issue.”

“To me it wasn’t like, ‘Whoa are you serious?’ To me it made sense,” Condie said.

While some members of the CRA wonder if the public is ready for transgender employees handling and serving food, Mendelsohn insists it does not matter what customers say.

“You know, you always hear the thing, ‘The customer’s always right,'” Mendelsohn retorted. “In my restaurants, the customer’s always right unless they attack you personally.”

Those friendly to the transgender community estimate that as many as 1.4 million Americans claim to be transgender. That could be about .6 percent of the population. Other estimates maintain there are only around 700,000 transgender Americans, or .3 percent of the populace.

According to a recent Washington Post article, transgenders may suffer an unemployment rate twice that of the general population.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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