By: Helios on March 30th, 2016

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How to be an Inclusive Employer for Transgender Employees

Diversity & Inclusion | Risk Management | Business Management & Strategy | Best Practices

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 and expectations of employers are too. Is your organization prepared to be inclusive for all?

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 ability to handle the responsibilities.  Many employers probably never think about how to integrate a transgender employee into the organization’s environment so they feel a sense of belonging. How well the organization succeeds or fails can be life-altering for all involved.

In recent years, we've seen high-profile people like Caitlyn Jenner and Eliot Page publicly affirm their gender. However, what would have happened if Caitlyn Jenner was the average American and went to work daily at a 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. 

To allow an individual the room to grow and develop in an environment of inclusion and belonging can be a huge change for companies. With the right HR partner or team, you should be in capable hands to take on the shift.

Trans employees may have one of the most difficult challenges of all. Many transgender men and women fear for their safety and believe they will have employment concerns, if they were to voice or express their true gender. Words hurt, and it is important for everyone to feel a part of the team. 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. 

5 Tips to Review Your Inclusion Initiatives for 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:

  1. Develop Sensitivity Training (that includes information regarding transgender employees). As an HR consultant, I would recommend implementing training even if you don’t know of any transgender employees in your workforce.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Consistently use the employee’s correct name and pronouns.  Refer to the employee by preferred name as well as the correct pronouns. 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.
  1. Implement an inclusive restroom system. Each transgender person has the right to use the restroom or locker rooms of their gender identity. 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, management and colleagues should treat everyone with kindness and sensitivity. It is the responsibility of the employer to make every effort to ensure there is inclusion and belonging within the environment and culture.