The Federal Government has spent a significant amount of time attempting to assure equality throughout the United States’ workforce. Whether it is ensuring the EEO statement includes gender identity, sexual preference or genetic information; ensuring there are not vast discrepancies between the salaries of men vs. women or based on race; or deciding whether to provide paid paternity leave. The world is changing. The question – is your organization prepared?
Inclusion is what most people in the world desire. Unfortunately, it becomes difficult for those who are not accepted as being a part of America’s mainstream. When making a decision to hire an individual based on whether they “fit” into the culture many companies view an individual’s personality, attitude and whether the individual has the ability to be trained to excel in the position or if they are currently equipped to handle the responsibilities. Many employers probably never think about how to integrate a transgender employee into the organization’s environment. How well the organization succeeds or fails can be life altering for all involved.
If one reflects on the buzz around Bruce Jenner and his gender altering experience to Caitlyn Jenner, one might realize the world, for the most part, accepted his change because of his notoriety and a strong supportive group to assist during his transition. Caitlyn Jenner was voted Woman of the Year! Achieving the title “Woman of the Year” was no small accomplishment. However, what would have happened if Caitlyn Jenner was the average American and went to work daily at your local factory or corporate office? What kind of work culture would she have experienced each day? Most people are inclined to work an average of 1,040 – 2,080 hours a year. If an individual works at full-time capacity that amounts to spending approximately one-fourth of the year working, which is a tremendous amount of time to participate in a culture where someone does not experience sufficient support. What would be the approximate percentage of support an average American transgender factory employee?
To allow an individual the room to grow and develop in an environment of inclusion can be an overwhelming task for companies whose tradition is not always one of inclusion. A competent HR team is capable of handling what might appear to others as a daunting task.
Transgender employees may have one of the most difficult challenges among all groups of people. For an individual to be categorized as transgender, one must identify with the gender opposite in which they were born and have a desire to live as the identifying gender full-time. Many transgender individuals decide to permanently change their bodies to fully become the opposite birth gender, but for some, this is not an option. Regardless of their path, it is the responsibility of the employer to make every effort to ensure there is inclusion within the environment.
Many transgender men and women fear for their safety and believe they will have employment concerns, if they were to voice or express themselves as transgender. Let us consider Caitlyn Jenner who was probably met with a great deal of opposition where she could choose or not choose to listen, read the tweets, or respond to various posts about her. The average American does not have the ability to go to work and ignore the sneers or being referred to by another name other than their chosen name or the pronoun that identifies their transgender individuality. More than likely, a person will begin to internalize this information. As a child, I remember hearing “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Social media and work experiences have proven this one of the most deceptive statements that I have heard. Being sensitive to an employee’s needs is about offering them an opportunity to be an integral part of the group and not feel like an outsider and be comfortable with who they are. Words do hurt and it is important for everyone to feel a part of the team.
5 Tips to Prepare Your Organization to Be Inclusive of Transgender Employees
The world is constantly changing, therefore, as HR professionals; we should be constantly changing as well. To ensure your organization is prepared, find below a few items to remember when transgender employees make up your workforce:
- Develop Sensitivity Training (that includes information regarding transgender employees). As a HR consultant, I would recommend implementing training even if you don’t know of any transgender employees in your workforce.
- Confidentiality is of utmost importance. The employee’s information should not be a topic of discussion or gossip. It is important to ensure management understands the sensitivity of the matter and respects the employee’s privacy.
- Adhere to the organization’s Dress Code Policy. The dress code policy that reflects the gender in which the transgender identifies is the policy to which the individual should adhere and the policy or requirement cannot be altered based on the birth gender.
- Consistently use the employee’s correct name and pronoun. If the employee is being identified as a male or female. Refer to the employee by preferred name as well as the correct pronoun. Repeated references of the non-preferred gender could undermine the treatment the employee is receiving. Treatment is an enormous part of the medical process to ensure a gender change is what is truly desired.
- Gender identity restrooms. Each transgender man and woman has the right to use the restroom or locker rooms of their identifying gender. They should not be forced to walk a long distance to another facility, asked to use an unsanitary room or a restroom identified for transgender use.
In order to ensure transgender employees feel included within the work environment, everyone should be sensitive to their life change and treat them as though they would any other individual.