Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Best Practices for Employers: Transgender Applicants & Employees

On Monday, June 6, 2016, the D.C. Office of Human Rights and the National LGBTQ Task Force issued a best practice guide to help employers ensure that their transgender employees are treated with respect and equality in the workplace.  This guide is in response to a recent survey that revealed that more than 90 percent of transgender have experienced discrimination in the workplace because of their gender identity.  Further, 47 percent of transgender have reported an adverse employment action because of their gender identity, such as being terminated or denied a promotion.

The guide recommends the following 5 best practices for employers to follow within the workplace:

1. Maintain Confidentiality.

Whether the employer learns of a person’s transgender status during the hiring process or after an employee seeks an accommodation, employers should keep the information confidential.   An employee’s transgender status should only be shared when necessary, such as disclosing an employee’s transition status to an HR official for record keeping.  An employer should discuss such a disclosure with the employee and ensure that that employee’s needs and transition timeline is considered.

2. Use Proper Names and Pronouns.

Employers are encouraged to use an employee’s preferred name and pronoun, regardless of the employee’s legal name.  Although employers will need to know the employee’s legal name for tax and payroll purposes, the preferred name should be used in other settings, such as an employee’s work badge, business card, work schedule or email account.  If an employee is going through transition, the employer should discuss what name and pronoun the employee wishes to use and how to best communicate the change with other coworkers.  To make transition processes easier, the guide suggests that employers use employees’ sir names, as opposed to a given name, when creating email addresses.  The guide also provides a chart with gendered and gender-neutral pronouns:

3. Ensure Access to Restrooms and Other Facilities.

Transgender employers should be able to use whichever restroom, locker room or other facility that the employee feels most comfortable with.  Refusing a transgender employee’s access to such a gender-segregated facility is a form of discrimination.  Even if an employer has a gender-neutral facility, a transgender employee should never be required to use such a facility.

4. Implement Gender-Neutral Dress Codes.

Employers should avoid implementing a gender-segregated dress code.  For instance, women should not be required to wear skirts or dresses while men are required to wear slacks and a tie.  Instead, employers should have a dress code that is gender neutral, such as “business casual attire (such as dress pants and dress shirts or blouses or business casual dresses), no jeans and no shorts.”

5. Address Challenges with Other Employees and Coworkers.

Employers are encouraged to promote professionalism in the workplace and should either work with or reprimand an employee who expresses discomfort with a transgender co-worker.  This can be accomplished by educating the problematic employee on the concept of gender identity.  Discrimination should not be tolerated and a clear anti-discrimination policy should be in effect.

The guide also recommends the following 4 best practices in hiring:

1. Use Proactive Methods to Uncover Discrimination. 

Employers should do their best to ensure that the application process is non-discriminatory and should avoid requiring applicants to choose a male or female identifier.  Applicants should have the option to write-in a preferred name and pronoun on employment applications.  Employers are even encouraged to conduct internal testing to ensure fairness, such as using pseudo applicant resumes where the transgender applicant is slightly more qualified than the other(s).

2. Ensure Interviews Are Welcoming.

Employers should ask the applicant for a preferred name and pronoun and should avoid asking personal questions about an applicant’s gender identity.  

3. Ensure Fair Background Checks.

Applicants should not be required to disclose their gender identity for a background check or job application.  Employers should also have a clear policy that identifies why an offer might be rescinded as a result of a background check.

4. Avoid Irrelevant Questions When Checking References.

Employers should refrain from inquiring about an applicant’s gender identity when conducing reference-checks.  Employers should also use the applicant’s preferred name and pronoun.

In employing these best practices and complying with other applicable federal and local laws, employers create a more welcoming environment for transgender employees.  These best practices also promote a more efficient and professional work environment.