Is your workplace safe for transgender and gender non-conforming employees?
Your policies need to be inclusive, whether your office currently has trans team members or not. With some changes, you’ll be better prepared to recruit and hire trans people, as well as handle existing employees’ gender transitions.
As an added bonus: trans-friendly policies make things more equal for everyone.
Here are seven things every workplace should do.
1. Rethink Your Dress Code
Does your office have an outdated dress code with specific requirements for men and women?
Time to kick it to the curb.
Dress codes that reinforce stereotypes put trans or gender non-conforming employees in a difficult position. So, forget “skirts for women” and “suits for men.”
Instead, provide consistent guidelines that apply to every employee regardless of gender. For example, flip-flops aren’t allowed in client meetings, and hard hats are required at company construction sites.
You can further protect employees with a clause welcoming all to dress in accordance with their preferred gender expression.
2. Settle the Bathroom Debate
You may have heard the question: “What bathroom should trans employees use?”
According to the Human Rights Campaign’s recommended workplace practices, “Permit an employee to use sex-segregated facilities that correspond to his/her full-time gender presentation, regardless of what stage that person is in terms of his/her overall transition process.”
Gender neutral single-stall bathrooms are also becoming more common in many office environments.
3. Make Benefits Gender Neutral
Health care, paid time off, 401k—trans employees shouldn’t be denied any workplace benefits based on their gender identity or expression. Neither should their spouses, partners or children be denied their rightful benefits.
Make sure your company provides the same amount of time for maternity and paternity leave, and that childcare policy applies equally to male and female employees.
4. Deep Dive into Your Health Care Provider
Your company’s health care provider may discriminate against trans people, and you don’t even realize it. Many insurance companies deny care for sex affirmation or reassignment procedures and prescriptions. Some make it difficult for trans people to receive general medical care that has nothing to do with their gender.
The American Medical Association suggests employers “work with their insurance carriers or administrators to remove transgender exclusions and provide comprehensive transgender-inclusive insurance coverage.”
5. Look for Gendered Language Everywhere
There are a thousand ways that companies reinforce the gender binary (the idea that gender is only male and female, nothing else). Take a look at every office procedure and how it might negatively affect a gender non-conforming employee.
For example, office paperwork might ask you to indicate Mr., Mrs. or Miss—is that really necessary? Similarly, rethink the use of gender-specific titles or pronouns within your standard business card template, email signature, office ID badge or desk nameplate.
Does your company have separate mens’ and womens’ recreational sports teams or social committees? Do your job descriptions and recruiting materials reflect subtle gendered preferences (i.e. administrative assistants are women, web developers are men)?
6. Include Trans Workers as a Protected Class
One way to show your commitment to a trans-friendly work environment is to revise your Equal Employment Opportunity language. Include “gender identity” or “gender expression” as one of your protected classes, in addition to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, disability or genetic information.
This language should also be expressed in your employee handbook, new employee training manual and anti-harassment policy.
7. Have a Gender Transition Plan Ready to Go
The Human Rights Campaign recommends that employers “institute protocols for gender transitions that clearly delineate responsibilities and expectations of transitioning employees, their supervisors, colleagues and other staff. Should an employee approach their manager or human resources with the intention to transition, be prepared by having gender transition guidelines on file.”
Here’s what your plan should include.
One of the most important things you can do is create strong policies that support LGBTQ employees, communicate them to your entire team, and visibly enforce them.