The New York Times reported this week that the Trump administration is considering adjusting current laws in a way that would result in transgender citizens to be defined out of existence. This problematic potential policy shift has me concerned as a citizen of a diverse country and feeling helpless. How can I help advocate for my transgender peers? One of the biggest areas of hope and growth I see is through small, grassroots efforts that can start in the office.
The good news is that legally, the federal government only sets the bare minimum amount of rights a U.S. citizen has. This means States may opt to grant more rights than the federal government does. So even if the federal government refuses to recognize transgender citizens, States can opt to continue to do so. Similarly, a local jurisdiction can grant even more rights than the State it is located within. And, to continue the pattern, organizations can also decide that those rights are not sufficient enough and can decide to protect its workers even further than any law requires.
How can your workplace help transgender employees? Through clear, proactive policies that promote inclusion.
You can ensure your transgender employees feel comfortable at work by creating and enforcing clear policies around discrimination and appropriate behavior in your organization. Adding to or adjusting your current policies will attract a more loyal and committed staff.
What policies should you consider changing? Here are some to consider:
- Ensure your Anti-Discrimination policy includes “Gender Identity or Expression” as a protected category.
- Set out clear procedures to delineate how employee documentation will be adjusted should an employee wish to transition.
- Consider bathroom and changing room facilities available to all employees. Create clear policies around the use of these facilities and disseminate these policies to all employees.
- If your workplace has a dress code, ensure there are gender neutral options.
- If your workplace offers health insurance, work to ensure those benefits are available to all employees.
- Establishing gender transition guidelines that spell out how your organization will assist any transitioning employees.
- Offer education to all employees about transgender issues.
Regardless of what the federal government does, your workplace doesn’t have to become an unwelcoming place for transgender employees. By making it clear you support all of your employees your staff will feel more secure coming to work and will be able to better focus on their jobs. An inclusive workplace makes all employees feel valued and respected has a significant and positive impact on employee retention.
Think this might not apply to you because you don’t believe you have any transgender employees right now? Implementing these policies is still important. Not only will the policies and procedures suggested above create a safe environment for employees to ask questions, but research suggests companies that openly articulate values of inclusion and have a diverse workforce tend to appeal to a wider customer and supplier base. Showcase your company values and you will recruit a committed staff and client base.
If you think all of these policies sound great, but worry you aren’t in charge of policy at your office, you can still help! Support your transgender colleagues by raising this issue with your employer. With the recent news coverage now is a great time to show your employer you are thinking about these issues and how they affect your workplace. If you are cis-gendered, don’t put the burden on your transgender colleagues to speak up – be an ally and proactively lobby your supervisor and workplace to make these changes. Gather a group of concerned employees and collectively ask to build a more inclusive workplace.