The Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association on Feb. 13 spoke out to encourage legal employers to take the lead in complying with the Transgender Equal Rights Bill, which goes into affect July 1, in making their work environments more respective, inclusive, and welcoming to current and potential transgender employees. The bill was signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick last November, and prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, education, housing, credit, and lending.
“There are a number of steps that employers can take now to make their workplaces more welcoming to transgender individuals,” says Catherine Reuben, a partner at Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP who trains and counsels employers about compliance with the new law and trains lawyers on representing transgender clients. “Legal employers are in a unique position to be at the forefront of providing equal employment opportunities for transgender employees and to lead their clients by example.”
The Mass. LGBTQ Bar provided the following suggestions for creating and maintaining a transgender-friendly workplace:
- Dignity and Respect: Treat all persons—including those who are transgender and gender non-conforming—with dignity and respect. Do not ask transgender employees or clients about their identity or gender transition unless there is a legitimate reason for doing so. Treat an employee’s gender transition like any other significant, and highly personal, life event, such as pregnancy.
- Value Talent and Diversity: Recruit, hire, retain, and promote transgender employees.
- Non-discrimination Policies: Include “gender identity/expression” in the list of protected classes contained in the non-discrimination policy, anti-harassment policy, equal employment opportunity policy, application form, job postings and other documents that address non-discrimination.
- Training: Training programs and materials related to discrimination, harassment, diversity, cultural competency, supervision, leadership and company policy should address gender identity. Educate employees, particularly HR staff, management, supervisors, decision-makers, security, and reception staff, about transgender people. During training, explain the concept of gender identity (a person’s internalized sense of who s/he is as male or female or some combination of those characteristics); that a person’s gender identity does not always match society’s stereotypical expectations; that it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of gender identity; and that confidentiality and discretion are of the utmost importance for a transgender employee.
- Insurance: Offer comprehensive health insurance to transgender employees and employees’ transgender dependents that clearly and explicitly affirms coverage and contains no categorical exclusions for coverage of all transition-related medical care identified as appropriate in the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care (SOC).
- Preferred Name and Pronoun: Allow employees to self-identify their preferred name (including non-legal name) and choice of pronoun. Have a policy and system for using employees’ preferred name and pronoun on personnel records, internal and external employee directories, business cards, website, and other written and electronic records.
- Equal Facilities Access: Develop a policy that allows employees (and clients and other visitors) to access restrooms and other traditionally sex-segregated facilities. Allow individuals to use the facility that is consistent with their gender identity and expression and make all staff (including “gatekeepers” such as reception and security staff) aware of the policy.
- Gender Transition: Adopt a written policy that sets forth the responsibilities and expectations of the employer and employee when an employee undergoes gender transition. Make the policy easily accessible to all employees.
For more information, please visit masslgbtqbar.org.