Transgender Employees in the Workplace

I’ve decided to write about Transgender employees and Transgenderism in the workplace because I’ve seen the topic come up several times over the past few months.  Does this mean that Transgenderism is on the rise or that Transgender employees are asserting their rights more in the workplace? I don’t know. But I figured I’d provide some information to employers who find themselves interviewing, hiring, employing, or firing Transgender employees.

Understand Transgenderism

The very first thing employers should do is understand what Transgenderism is.  Transgenderism can include individuals who have transitioned to a gender other than what they are born as. It includes also individuals who are undertaking a gender transition. As well as individuals who identify with a gender opposite of what they were born as. While there are many individual states that protect against LGBT discrimination, the federal government along with 29 other states currently have no laws prohibiting gender identity discrimination.

In July 2014 President Obama issued (amended) Executive Order 11478 and 11246 to include gender identity. So if you’re a government contractor you should be aware of this. When it comes to federal law, Democrats have been trying to pass ENDA for years now.  If it were to pass, ENDA would protect against LGBT discrimination, but it’s not clear if or when this bill will ever become a law.

Foster acceptance of transgender employees

Whether laws exist or not, you should never discriminate against someone due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Doing so could harm your reputation as an employer and have a huge impact on employee morale.  Here are some ways that you can go above and beyond by fostering inclusion and making everyone in your office feel welcome:

  • Include in your handbook that gender identity and expression are protected within your workplace;
  • If you have a dress code make it gender neutral;
  • Consider covering domestic partners under your health plan;
  • Consider publicly supporting an organization like GLAAD or the HRC;
  • Post open jobs to LGBTQ job boards and university groups;
  • Document performance and make sure any actions you take can be attributed to that performance;
  • Locate a nearby individual (non-public) bathroom and inform all employees about it.  This is just good practice on so many levels. 

The key word here is Inclusion. Employers should strive to create a workplace where all of their employees can bring their similarities and differences to the company.  These similarities and differences should be celebrated, as you’ll never know when they’ll contribute or lead to the next breakthrough product or service.

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