Employers may not think they have any transgender employees. But, in fact, more than half of transgender individuals have not yet disclosed their status to their employers. With this staggering statistic in mind, how can you make sure your workplace is inclusive of all people, particularly transgender individuals?
Education is key.
Start with educating yourself on gender identity, gender expression, and transgender people. Trying to understand shows support and allows you to speak and advocate appropriately. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) website is an excellent place to start.
Use individuals’ preferred pronouns and names.
Recognize a transgender employee’s preferred name and gender at every opportunity, like creating their business card or in general conversation. In fact, stop using the binary language of men and women altogether. In other words, move from saying ‘men and women’ to ‘people of all genders.’ Also, you can include options for self-identification on internal forms like preferred pronouns. While you may not always know someone’s pronoun, it is essential to use the correct one.
At this point, you’ve discovered that gender identities exist outside of the binary of “female” and “male.” A person may not go by he/him/his or she/her/hers pronouns. Instead, they may go by they/them/theirs, ze/hir/hirs, ze/zir/zirs, or some other gender-neutral pronoun. Using non-binary pronouns takes effort and practice. In fact, you will most likely make mistakes. When you do, apologize, correct your language, and move on.
Create policies that protect workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Review your non-discrimination policy to ensure it includes gender identity or gender expression as a protected category. Also, include both in your company’s Equal Employment Opportunity statement. Review your dress code and change it as necessary to ensure gender neutrality. Allow your employees to dress according to their gender identity.
Offer gender-neutral bathrooms.
OSHA publishes guidance on best practices for restroom access for transgender workers. All employers should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity. You can do this with single-occupancy gender-neutral bathrooms or multiple-occupant gender-neutral restrooms with lockable, single-occupant stalls. Regardless of which you offer, make it a point to allow transgender employees to use the bathroom they feel most comfortable using. This OSHA article outlines some great information and best practices.
Get buy-in from leadership.
Top-down support is a must and needs to be visible to all employees. HR can help foster inclusiveness and openness, but not without the executive leadership team’s complete buy-in.
Adopt transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits.
Healthcare benefits are one of the most challenging portions of inclusion to navigate. So, partner with external organizations for assistance. Your HR department can work alongside organizations like HRC to review plan documents and recommend best practices. They’ve created a toolkit for Employers on Transgender Inclusion in the workplace. It provides a starting place to move towards a more inclusive workplace.
Train your staff.
Creating a more inclusive workplace for transgender people requires appropriate training for staff and management. Set expectations for respectful workplace behavior and outline disciplinary action for non-compliance with non-discrimination policies. Do not hesitate to bring in an external expert in this field for employee training.
An individual’s transgender status is confidential information. Do not disclose it without the person’s permission. Someone may not want to share their transition. A person’s disclosure to others is self-determined and deserves your confidentiality.
The first step to moving your organization forward is acknowledging your organization most likely has transgender, gender non-binary, or intersex people. Making your organization more inclusive can be challenging, so don’t forget to use your resources. It’s essential to ensure all employees feel safe and can see themselves staying with your organization for years to come.