A Guide to Gender Transitioning at Work

FT Contributor
A transgender person pulling a pride flag out of a business suit pocket.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Discrimination in the workplace today is more common than you think. Seventy-five percent of transgender individuals report an experience with discrimination at work, and one in four have lost their job altogether.

There are an estimated 1.4 million people in the transgender community, yet many companies are unsure of how to approach the topic. Only one-third of Fortune 500 companies offer gender transition policies, despite the many LGBTQ resources available to help. Without any clear definitions of workplace harassment and discrimination, it can become complicated to enforce fair treatment policies. However, a company is responsible for creating a safe environment free from discrimination for all of its employees.

With the following tips at your disposal, it will be easier to stand prepared when it comes time to promote and enforce gender transition non-discrimination policies at your company.  

Transgender Rights in the Workplace

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) is a leading resource for transgender rights, guiding both employer and employee alike. According to the NCTE, a company has the legal obligation to maintain a discrimination-free workplace, or it can be held liable under existing laws against sex discrimination.

As a transgender employee, you have the right to transition at work and be treated with respect. You also have the right to:

  • Dress based upon gender identity.
  • Be called by the name and gender-specific pronouns you prefer.
  • Have access to a gender-appropriate restroom and changing room.
  • Maintain privacy regarding personal, medical, and transgender information.
  • Have your employee records kept current and updated.
  • Assistance from company human resources as needed or requested.

Moreover, there are specific provisions for health insurance to ensure that all employees, no matter their gender, receive equal access to their employer’s health care plan.

Human Resources Role in Transitioning at Work

The human resources (HR) department of a company will be a crucial component of your transition at work. Gender transition can be a confusing for the whole office, and HR relieves some of that pressure by serving as a guide to help employees navigate this time with respect and understanding.

Your HR department will ensure company compliance with all current legislation, which includes the updating of all manuals, handbooks, and guidelines to reflect a discrimination-free workplace. HR is also responsible for maintaining your employee record — including benefits you’re eligible to receive — so it reflects all necessary changes throughout the transition process.

Building Framework for Transitioning at Work

When there is an employee undergoing gender transition, your human resources department will play an enormous role in addressing the topic appropriately with your colleagues.

This is the recommended framework for your company’s next steps during your gender transition:

Initial Meeting With the Employee

This meeting is similar to a consultation where your transition plans are discussed, as well as any special needs you may require, such as an appropriate restroom and dressing room. The cost of a gender transition can be significantly affected by company benefits, so HR will have the opportunity to review employee benefits, as well as any necessary changes. Based on your feedback, HR will begin to discuss plans to implement revised company guidelines.

Initial Management Meeting

Next, HR meets with your supervisor or management team. The purpose of this meeting is to update managers with your plans and offer additional resources, like the ones NCTE provides. It is an ideal opportunity to review current federal guidelines and address any new changes to company policy.

Meeting With the Employee and Management

This meeting is designed to bring you together with your HR and management to solidify your transition plan at work. It ensures that a detailed plan of action is in place before a public notice is made to the entire company.

Informing Other Co-Workers

HR will hold a formal meeting to inform employees of your gender transition. It is an opportunity to explain the transition process and answer questions, while also reiterating company policy and expected behavior. You should not attend this meeting, in an effort to create a comfortable forum where employees feel safe to speak freely.

Updating Existing Transgender Employment Policy

No matter whether your company currently has trans employees, it should still put a transgender employment policy in place. It is important to ensure the policy is maintained to align with current federal workplace initiatives, especially where discrimination is concerned. It is also a fantastic opportunity for you to offer feedback that is unique to your perspective.

When your company is creating or updating the transgender employment guidelines, these topics may be integrated to create a more well-rounded policy:

  1. Dress code: While companies are free to institute a reasonable dress code for their employees, this dress code cannot be based upon gender stereotypes, such as the requirement that all women must wear a dress.
  2. Employee benefits: Benefits and other company offerings must be made available to all eligible employees, regardless of gender. This includes coverage for qualifying dependents.
  3. Diversity and inclusion programs: These programs not only welcome new employees into the fold, but they also help existing employees learn what to expect, while reinforcing appropriate behavior.
  4. Recruitment and hiring: It’s important to review existing policies for any signs of discriminatory language and then implement changes to incorporate greater diversity.

Where Transitioning at Work Guidelines Should Be Available

It’s not enough just to make these policies; companies must do their due diligence when sharing them, too. To ensure compliance with new transitioning at work guidelines, these policies need to be posted in clear view of employees.

Ideal places to post new transgender work guidelines include:

  • Internal communication channels, such as the company’s intranet, software, and search engines.
  • The revised employee handbook, in both electronic and print form.
  • Common areas, such as breakrooms, copy rooms, and internal meeting areas.
  • Employee support resources, including the HR hotline.

As the transgender community grows, it will become more common for employees to transition in the workplace. As your employer, your company will play a vital role in your transition. This supportive role can make all the difference in maintaining a healthy, respectful, and productive workplace that every employee can enjoy.

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