About three quarters of Fortune 500 companies have incorporated gender identity protection in their company policies. Gap, Wells Fargo and Apple are all participants with steps in place to support transgender employees.
In the past, it has been an uphill battle for transitioning employees to feel included and safe from company discriminated for their gender identity. Cases like Ramirez v Barnes and Noble, where the company denied to secure a transitioning worker the right to a discriminant free work environment, are the stepping stones for revised company policies and procedures.
Human Resources has been working hard to put together protection policies that encourage workplace support for transitioning and transgender employees and let’s take a look at some of these efforts and how HR is changing the workplace for these workers.
Transition Plans – When an employee decides to transition, it will be a hard time where they will need ongoing workplace support. In the event that your employee confides in you about their plans to transition, it is best advised to have a plan.
“We try our best to accommodate our transitioning and transgender employees as it’s part of our diversity inclusive policy. At times we may have some stumbles but because of our plan in place, we continue to strive while sustaining an all-inclusive work community.” Human resources representative for a Brooklyn startup company told us.
Some things HR is being sure to cover in their transition plans could include:
Name Changing – Some companies allow employees to use nicknames on company business cards, emails, and mail (from Robert to Bob) yet there is sometimes reluctance to extend the courtesy to transitioning employees. Part of implementing a transition plan is facing the issue head-on and brainstorming ways to help respect the transitioning employee.
In turn, human resources sometimes have made noticeable efforts to speed up the name changing process. In one case, a transgendered employee expressed her anxiety with the name on her professional profile and the company went ahead to change it to her preferred name, allowing her to live in her true identity.
The worker then felt valued and included – great traits to encourage in the workplace.
Dress codes are not to gender stereotype or discriminate. All employees should wear appropriate workplace clothing consistent with their full gender identity.
Like their colleagues, they should refer to company policy for dress code and follow the guidelines corresponding to their new identity. Outside of the workplace doesn’t apply to the inside of the office and therefore the dress code doesn’t apply.
So if in their spare time an employee may cross-dress, it’s not company’s business to inquire.
Restrooms are still a touchy topic in America with the transitioning and transgender community. Companies are required to provide their staff with reasonable access to restroom facilities and the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits employment discrimination based on factors of race, religion and gender identity.
Therefore, denial of restroom facilities to transitioning and transgender employees is unlawful. If a transitioning employee chooses to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender they wish to identify by, company policy should allow it.
Some recommendations for employees uncomfortable with the idea include using a separate bathroom from the transitioning employee and talking to their officials about the possibility of having gender-neutral restrooms.
Workplace Community is a crucial asset to a company. People who communicate well, work better in group settings and on collaborative projects. Included in the transition plan, employers should be visual about sharing information to educate the workplace on what a person may experience while transitioning and how to show support.
“In an effort to help our small work community informed and supportive, we have sent out emails to offer our employees services for counseling. We know it could be a drastic change for some of our them and we want to offer a channel to have one-on-one consultations with our appointed HR rep,” the Brooklyn startup company rep explained.
Regular re-visits to company policies are another way human resources is changing the workplace. Keeping up with state and federal laws have become vital for staying updated on diversity initiatives within the workforce.
Management Training – In-person training and educational courses are useful for employees in leadership roles. The managers and supervisors are the moderators and facilitators of the workplace and their skills should be updated in order to handle possible questions or concerns about the changes happening in the workplace.
Managers are responsible for keeping a harassment-free workplace and therefore should be trained to do so.
There are a number of ways businesses can support their transitioning employees. To maintain a productive, collaborative and diversity inclusive work environment, special steps have to be taken and old policies revamped.
The time is now to pay attention to your human resource efforts and ask yourself the big question: Is my HR department making changes to support transgender employees in the workplace?