Discrimination lawsuits have always been around, however right now the spotlight belongs to the transgender community. Transgender employees
have always been in the workplace, but this past year has ushered in a new wave of equal rights fighting for the LGBTQ community in general, especially with the help of transitioning celebrity Bruce, now Caitlyn Jenner. The most important takeaway from this all however, is this: The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission strictly forbids discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. You cannot deny someone privileges at work based on how they identify. That being said, there are still a great deal of challenges that transgenders face in the workplace.
"Trans employees risk exclusion, harassment and in some cases, their job."
The daily challenge
Human resources departments have to understand the challenge that transgenders face coming into the office every day. According to the Human Rights Campaign, because there is still a fair amount of discrimination in the workplace, trans employees are forced to make a decision whether or not to share their identity with their fellow coworkers. Of course there are benefits to disclosing identity, but there are also some risks if other employees are not yet tolerant of changing identity. Transgender employees risk exclusion, harassment and in some cases, their job, said the source.
The big issue: Restrooms
Surprising or not, the biggest grievances employees have about their transgender peers is regarding the use of the bathroom. It's not just an argument localized in the workplace either - this debate is being wildly contested in the government as well. Michelle Phillips, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in New York explained to the Society For Human Resource Management that this group of people are one of the few who still face open discrimination, even under the governance of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
"Many employees and managers have difficulty wrapping their heads around the use of a women's restroom by a transgender person. There is the fear they will act in a sexual manner toward someone," Phillips explained.
But this situation is not so simple, because OSHA has created explicit guidelines for using restrooms if you are a transgender worker. It specifically says that employers need to find a comfortable, safe restroom solution for everyone, but may not require any employee to use a separate facility. Should there be a gender neutral bathroom, it needs to be utilized by everyone.
As you can see, figuring out certain aspects of how to appropriately include transgender employees are tricky. HR services needs a plan to make your company's work environment inclusive. Here are a couple of tips that will help make your workplace the inclusive location you want it to be:
Make sure your company is properly educated
SHRM explained that you first have to determine a clear set of guidelines that disallow discrimination of gender bias from your company. Be sure your employees understand specifically what your definition of transgender is so there is no confusion. On top of this, employers and HR professionals should provide training to educate employees on gender issues - like the bathroom situation - and update them on any new policies.
Create a no-tolerance policy for workplace discrimination
There are several trainings for employers and employees alike, reported the Huffington Post. When employees are improperly educated on gender identity and expression, it can lead to harassment or mistreatment, intentional or not. In fact, the source reported that about 90 percent of transgender employees have reported that they have experienced discrimination of this kind in some way in their work environment.
Establish preferred name of transgender employees
This one of the biggest issues that trans employees get upset over - not being identified by their preferred identity, said SHRM. Don't forget all the details that go with this, however. HR will have to be prepared to be in charge of changing paperwork, ID cards and health insurance documents should the individuals change names as well.
If you're interested in learning more or think you need help developing a plan for you business, try investing in the help of an HR outsourcing company to help your company adhere to EEOC and OSHA guidelines.