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Transgender in the Workplace

In December, the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found in favor of Vandiver Elizabeth Glenn's claim of sex discrimination for having been fired from a job as editor with the Georgia General Assembly. The Court found that Glenn's firing violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, just the latest in a series of such rulings. And the courts are not the only sign that the tide is turning. In an essay in TIME, Adam Cohen notes:

"Meanwhile, things are also changing in the workplace. Last week’s [December] report from the Human Rights Campaign found that 207 of 636 major U.S. companies surveyed, or nearly one-third, covered the cost of gender-reassignment surgery for transgender workers. That number increased from just 85 a year earlier. When HRC began monitoring the issue a decade ago, no corporations covered the surgery. Among the corporations that added coverage this year are Apple, American Airlines and Chevron. In pop culture, transgender people are also becoming more visible and recognized. Chaz Bono, the only child of Sunny Bono and Cher, has put a celebrity face on being transgender — especially after he competed this season on Dancing with the Stars."

Last week, Baltimore County approves transgender discrimination ban. Nationwide, more than 160 cities and counties have laws banning transgender discrimination, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Employment law attorneys Robert Brody and Rebecca Goldberg talk about what this means for employers in Changing Gender — The New Sex Discrimination (PDF). In discussing the case, the authors note:

But the most likely problem is workplace harassment. Research suggests as many as 97 percent of transsexual employees are harassed at work, more than double the number who reported being denied a job or promotion or fired. To prevent this problem, employers should proactively include gender identity in their anti-harassment policies and training programs. Waiting until an employee identifies as transsexual to implement these changes can draw negative attention to the employee and exacerbate the problem.

Dionysia Johnson-Massie and Gina Cook, attorneys at the employment and labor law firm Littler also take about the Court ruling's impact on employers in 11th Circuit Rules for Transgender Employee in Sex Discrimination Case.

Among other things, they suggest that both public and private employers should review the following policies:

  • Equal opportunity, anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies
  • Dress code and appearance standard policies
  • Codes of conduct between employees, constituents or customers
  • Policies regulating the use of gender-segregated areas such as bathrooms
  • Policies regarding respect for the individual or manager-subordinate relations
.

Additional Resources:
State Advocacy from the Human Rights Campaign offers maps of state laws and policies, lists of cities and counties with Non-Discrimination Ordinances that include gender identity, and other resources.

Employer and Union Policies from the Transgender Law Institute

Transgender Discrimination - more resources at a prior HR Web Cafe posting.

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