I don’t have to tell you that the workplace is constantly changing. Some of the reasons include over regulation and others include the variety of individuals that are appearing in the work environment. Sexual orientation is the most recent issue that has captured the attention of the Feds. The federal “Office of Personnel Management” (OPM) has now issued guidelines addressing how to “handle” the employment of transgender workers.
First, I believe it is important to understand the terminology. Transgender individuals are people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned them at birth. The term transgender includes:
- Transsexuals-Those who have had gender reassignment (surgery) or live permanently and exclusively as a gender other than their birth gender.
- Crossdressers and transvestites-Those who dress according to the appearance norms of the gender that was not their birth gender some, or all of the time.
- Genderqueer, intergender, or andogyne-Those who identify with neither gender or with both.
Keep in mind that some transgender employees may pursue gender transition, a process tha can include therapy, hormones, and possibly surgical procedures, or any combination. The final pre-surgical stage of transition is known as the “real life experience” which means that they are living full-time in the gender role consistent with their gender identity. Normally, this is when employers find out that an employee is transgender and undergoing a transition. This is when it gets tough. Employers, especially in California, have to protect the employee from his or her co-workers to prevent discrimination. It is also important to note, that the gender reassignment surgery and drug regimens could make an employee eligible for protection for disability status or benefits.
Now, let’s understand, there is no federal protection, as of yet, but understand under state law (approximately fourteen states), employers cannot inquire into an applicant’s or employee’s status as transgender. Needless to say, managers and supervisors are prevented from harassing or retaliating against an employee because of his or her transgender status. This also means that the employer is placed in a position to have the proper personnel policies in place that informs their entire workforce that such harassment will not be tolerated.
As I told you last week this will be in two parts because I believe in keeping the articles relatively short. The next article will appear later this week and will include tips for avoiding transgender bias claims.