Transgender issues have been receiving more attention as of late--specifically, on how employers can successfully accommodate an employee (or prospective employee) who is transitioning or has transitioned. Dealing with transgender workplace issues may be unchartered territory for many employers, so it’s important for HR professionals to be informed and prepared to handle transgender workplace issues appropriately.
The first step in accommodating a transgender employee is to create and maintain a work environment that is inclusive of everyone and that does not tolerate harassment or discrimination of any kind. Employees must understand that, whatever their personal beliefs, harassment and hostility towards others will not be tolerated in the workplace.
One of the most common issues that arises when an employee decides to transition is restroom use in the workplace. However, the solution is fairly straightforward. A transgender employee, whether fully transitioned or in the process of transitioning, should be permitted to use the restroom of the gender he or she identifies with. You should not require a transgender employee to use a single-occupancy restroom or the restroom of the employee’s gender at birth. This could open your organization up to sex discrimination claims and costly litigation. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has put together a Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers, outlining best practices for employers.
When an individual transitions, he or she may decide to change his or her name. You should be sure to use the name and pronoun that the transgender employee prefers. In addition, you should watch for other employees’ deliberate use of the wrong name and/or pronoun as an attempt to demoralize the transgender employee.
Of course, there are a number of other issues that may arise when an employee is transitioning. It’s important that the individual has a specified point of contact to go to where he or she can talk about his or her concerns. Like most employee relations matters, the best progress and outcomes happen when employers take the time to sit down, listen and respect employees’ concerns. By providing an accommodating environment, your employees will be more productive and you can avoid costly litigation.