In 2017, the state of California enacted the Transgender Work Opportunity Act, which became effective in January 2018. The legislation requires mandatory workplace postings and enhanced training programs geared toward helping transgender and gender nonconforming workers overcome high unemployment rates, helping prevent discrimination in the workplace, and increasing inclusiveness in the workplace.
California was the first state to enact such legislation, but it could become more common soon in various states as LGBTQ issues start to gain more traction across the United States.
Why Is Accommodating Transitioning and Transgender Employees Important?
According to one report by the National Center for Transgender Equality, 90% of the 6,450 transgender and gender-nonconforming people who were surveyed reported “experiencing harassment or mistreatment on the job or took actions to avoid it.” And a whopping 47% of the individuals surveyed reported being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion because of their gender identity.
Some newer studies also suggest that including more inclusive policies and training regarding the trans community offers multiple financial benefits for organizations. And many Fortune 500 companies on the Corporate Equality Index are already participating in offering more inclusive policies and training for the trans community, so it’s also starting to make good sense from a competitive standpoint.
How to Accommodate Transitioning and Transgender Employees
Beyond developing official policies that promote gender inclusiveness across your organization and training programs that acquaint everyone with the issues surrounding the transgender and non-gender-conforming community, there are a few other things you can do.
Develop and implement a formal plan. If you truly want your initiatives for transitioning and transgender employees to be effective, you’ll need to document them and make sure everyone across your organization is aware of them.
You’ll want your employees to know who they can contact within your organization if and when they are ready to transition or share with others their new gender identity. You’ll also want to be flexible and respectful with your plan, as every individual will be different and will want to approach the topic of his or her identity in different ways.
The main objective is to just let everyone know that he or she has a support system and people who can help navigate a highly personal and potentially terrifying situation.
Respect employees’ privacy and update records when requested. When employees change their gender identity, be sure to refer to them as “him” or “her” according to their newly disclosed gender identity and as they request. If they have their names legally changed, you’ll want their new names in all your records, as well.
Also, keep in mind that every single transitioning or transgender employee may not want to make a big deal out of something so personal, so don’t demand he or she tell you information or share information he or she isn’t comfortable disclosing, unless it’s legally required.
Follow up with them regularly. Once employees officially tell you that they are either transitioning or transgender, follow up with them after a few weeks to ensure they’re not experiencing discrimination or harassment.
And continually follow up with them and see if there are any resources that you can offer them, and let them know that you are available to ensure a safe and productive working environment for them.
Consult the right resources. As you develop your initiatives and training programs, consult the appropriate resources. Here are a few to consider:
- OSHA Best Practices Guide
- SHRM: Supporting Transgender Employees
- HRC: Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace: Recommended Policies and Practices
- Transgender Law and Policy Institute
Keep the tips and best practices above in mind as you work to accommodate transitioning and transgender employees.