Although there are currently no federal laws that protect gender identity, more and more states are adopting gender identity laws. Regardless, it is widely considered sex discrimination when someone is treated differently for failing to conform to sex stereotypes or for changing their sex.
This can be an uncomfortable area for employers that may be new to the types of situations that present themselves.
Consider these matters as you look at your business policies as it relates to gender identity:
- How do you handle coworkers that feel uncomfortable around a transgender employee?
- What about your dress code?
- And what about the restroom situation?
Take care not to address coworker concerns by putting restrictions on the transgender employee. Aside from the fact that ALL employees must be treated with dignity and respect, an employer’s reasoning that actions taken were to appease the general employee population won’t protect you from an unlawful discrimination claim.
One of the first stages for transgender or gender-transitioning employees is to live and work full-time in the clothes of the target gender. The company’s dress codes should be applied to gender-transitioning employees in the same way they are applied to other employees of that gender. Dress codes should not be used to prevent transgender employees from living full-time in the role consistent with their gender identity.
Although multiple-occupant gender-segregated restroom facilities are the most common, employers may want to consider a single-occupant, gender-neutral restroom, much like the “family restrooms” that are becoming common in public places. However, be cautious of requiring the transgender employee to use a unisex bathroom if gender-specific bathrooms are available.
As always, the BCN Human Resources team is available to discuss specific situations in your workplace and help guide you with any and all employee matters.
Sue Kester, HR Manager