The topic of gender identity can be a new, and sometimes uncomfortable, area for employers.
It is widely considered sex discrimination when someone is treated differently for failing to conform to sex stereotypes or for changing their sex. Consider these matters as you look at your business policies:
- How do you handle coworkers that feel uncomfortable around a transgender employee?
- What about your dress code as it relates to gender identity?
- What about use of public restrooms?
Be aware that there are no federal laws protecting gender identity, but more and more states are adopting them.
Don’t put restrictions on transgender employees
Take care not to address coworker concerns by putting restrictions on the transgender employee. All employees must be treated with dignity and respect, so reasoning that you were trying to appease all employees won’t protect from an unlawful discrimination claim.
Transgender or gender-transitioning employees live and work full-time in the clothes of their target gender. A dress code should be applied to gender-transitioning employees in the same way they are applied to other employees of that gender. Dress codes should never prevent transgender employees from living full-time in their gender identity.
Consider how you handle public restrooms
Multiple-occupant, gender-segregated restroom facilities are most commonly seen in the workplace. But employers may want to consider a single-occupant, gender-neutral restroom, much like the “family restrooms” that are becoming common in public places. But be cautious: You cannot require a 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. Contact us here.
Sue Kester, HR Manager