Over the past year, there has been increasing attention on transgendered persons both in the media and in the law. While many hope this wave of attention on transgender issues will increase legal protection for transgender persons, that protection is already in place in many states across the country. Many states and municipalities, including California, Nevada, Colorado and the city of Phoenix, Arizona already extend workplace protection to persons based on their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. In locations where gender identity is a protected class, employers are increasingly faced with questions on how to navigate through the various stages of an employee’s transition, including how to refer to a transgender employee, which bathroom facilities to allow them to use and how to deal with other employees’ reactions to a transgender employee. Many of these questions are fact specific and vary based on the employee and the employer. There are, however, a few things an employer should keep in mind:
- Keep it need to know. Ask yourself, do you really need to know an employee’s sex and gender identity?
- Keep it confidential. Never “out” a transgender employee to other people without the express permission of the employee.
- Use appropriate names and pronouns. Consider referring to the employee however they refer to themselves.
- Make shared space private. Whenever possible consider providing single-occupancy, gender-neutral facilities for use by employees who want more privacy, regardless of the reason.
- Provide everyone with a resource. Consider designating a person who handles human resources issues at the company to be available to discuss concerns or complaints with employees.
- Treat it like the interactive process. Think about who the appropriate person in human resources is to engage in a dialog with the transgender employee.
- Remind employees of anti-harassment policies.
- Be sensitive to other employees. Assuming you have permission of the transgender employee, consider discussing the situation with other employees.
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