While sexual stereotyping and sexism have been a noticeable part of many work environments, and have resulted in many claims filed against employers, the issue of transgendered persons in the workplace is an emerging area of law that employers must be mindful of. Many of these issues of gender identity or gender expression might arise during the interviewing and hiring process, but can also come into play in discipline, promotion and termination decisions.
When a hiring manager or HR department encounters a transgendered applicant or employee, it is imperative that actionable claims can be made via sexual stereotyping. Companies need to be prepared to follow the EEOC’s lead on transgender issues in the workplace, and recognize the importance of creating an effective policy within the company to handle this matter when it arises.
The following are a few of the best practices for companies to consider, as summed up by Seyfarth and Shaw, LLP with regards to effectively handing issues of transgendered persons in the work place.
1) Revisit Non-Discrimination Policies: While nothing in the law protects transgender employees, in order to avoid legal action, it’s important for any company to revisit their non-discrimination policies and create an internal understanding of how equal employment and anti-harassment policies fit into the matter of employing transgendered persons.
2) Conduct Training: Companies often require employees to attend sexual harassment training, or other workshops that deal with sensitive issues in the workplace. The matter of transgendered persons in the workplace should be added to these trainings. If a transgendered person were to announce that they are transitioning, it would be helpful to conduct a training to provide co-workers an understanding of how to handle this.
3) Dress codes: Overall, dress codes can be considered out of date or created based on stereotypes. Typically, the best course of action for companies that expect professional attire should leave this as non-descript, simply just stating “professional business attire.” If your company requires a uniform, create something that is gender neutral.
4) Health Insurance and Benefits: A transgendered person, particularly if they are transitioning while employed by a particular company, may need additional leave while undergoing the transition. It would assist transgendered persons if a company would consider changes in leave related policies or health insurance plan offerings.
It is important for employers to alleviate any possible option for action to be taken against them. Re-examining policies and training employees to handle all different aspects of employee stereo typing and harassment is the best way to show that proper actions were taken to create a safe work environment, which will hopefully help avoid any action being taken by an employee. For the full article on addressing transgender issues in the workplace, click here.