H.R. expert explains how this breaking news story may impact the LGBT community and how to handle transgender issues in the workplace
The Defense Department has just announced that President Trump’s ban against transgender military members will go into effect in April. With just a matter of weeks until the ban is implemented, many transgender people in a variety of industries are feeling frightened about their own job status, even if they do not work in the armed forces.
No wonder—a recent survey led by the DC Office of Human Rights found that 48 percent of employers showed bias against hiring a transgender individual, even if the applicant was more qualified than others. In addition, nearly 90% of transgender individuals report workplace harassment. Human resources professionals across the country need to become educated and prepared when it comes to handling transgender issues, both as it relates to hiring and harassment and beyond.
Rob Wilson, human resources expert and President of Employco USA, says, “It is against the law to discriminate against applicants based on gender, race, or religion, and the same holds true for transgender individuals as well. Thanks to Macy v. Department of Justice, there is a legal precedent which prevents hiring staff from refusing or rescinding job offers upon finding out that a person is transgender.” Additionally, there are other things that employers must consider as well, such as:
- The legal documents might not match the preferred name/pronoun of the applicant or employee. “On official legal forms, you must use the name and gender on the identification the employee gives you, regardless of how they present themselves in person. However, just because you must do so on the legal forms, it does not mean you must do so on the company website or the person’s business cards, etc. Instead, use their preferred name.”
- Engage in an interactive process. “When it comes to issues of privacy, engage with the employee. Ask what pronoun they prefer. Ask if they want the other staff to know any details about their gender identity. Then, respect their choice.”
- Allow them to use the bathroom of their choice. “OSHA recommends that employers permit employees to use the bathroom of their choice, meaning that a transgender female should be permitted to use the female bathroom, or a transgender male should be permitted to use the male bathroom.”
- Intercept problems before they happen. “Have an office-wide meeting with any managing personnel to let them know about how these issues will be handled. Update your handbooks to reflect that discrimination against transgender employees will not be tolerated. Also, update your office dress code policy so that it is not gender-specific. In other words, instead of saying, ‘Men must wear slacks’ or ‘Women must wear skirts,’ say ‘Business casual’ or ‘No ripped clothing, logos, etc. allowed’.”
- Be tactful. “Many transgenders say they hate when people say, “Wow, I couldn’t tell you weren’t born a woman!” or “I really thought you were a man!” You might be trying to compliment them, but it comes off as demeaning or even bigoted,” says Wilson. “None of these comments belong in the workplace.”
Don’t ask overly personal questions. “Inquiring about a person’s health is always a no-no in the office,” says Wilson, “And this shouldn’t change just because a person is transgender. Don’t ask about their hormones or if they plan to transition. It is both ethically and legally out-of-bounds.”
For more on this topic, please contact Rob Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.