Chances are that you have seen multiple news stories, social media posts and pictures of Bruce Jenner’s gender transition to Caitlyn Jenner. Regardless of everyone’s personal thoughts and opinions on the matter, now is the perfect time to address issues regarding transgender employees in the workplace. Below is information that will help employers navigate through some of the common issues associated with a transgender employee.
Employers and employees often have questions about whether discrimination related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals is prohibited under Title VII. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee because of the person’s sex. Be aware that the EEOC will accept and investigate charges from individuals who believe they have been discriminated against because of transgender status and has targeted this area of enforcement as a priority. It is clear that the EEOC holds that discrimination against a transgender person is discrimination because of sex.
In light of the EEOC’s position, employers must address several common issues in the workplace.
First, the employer must determine when to start regarding a transitioning employee as being a member of his or her chosen, new gender. A good rule to follow is that until a transgender person begins working in his/her new gender role, the person should be considered a member of his/her original sex. Once the person begins to present himself/herself in the new gender role at work, the employee should be considered and treated as a member of the new sex. The employer should discuss the transition timeline with the employee at the beginning of the transition. An appropriately-timed conversation with co-workers should also occur to discuss the transition and expectations of the workplace.
Second, the employer must address what bathroom facilities the transgender employee should use. Once an employee has fully transitioned into the new gender role at work, the employee should use the bathroom and any workplace dressing area of the chosen, new gender.
An important last consideration is a review and possible revision of the employer’s handbook or other workplace policies. The employer’s EEOC policy, anti-harassment policy, dress code policy and benefits policy should be at the top of the list to review.