Approximately 1.4 million adults in the U.S. identify as transgender, and many of these Americans are part of the labor force. However, they are not always welcomed with open arms.
More than a quarter of transgender people have lost a job due to bias and three-fourths have experienced workplace discrimination, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality. While there are no federal laws explicitly protecting trans employees, there have been federal court cases supporting coverage for transgender individuals as sex discrimination. And 19 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and more than 200 cities and counties around the U.S. have laws explicitly prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression.
But, according to Beck Bailey, a Deputy Director at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Workplace Equality Program, companies “don’t have to wait for the law to be committed to being an inclusive workplace.” And many companies aren’t.
According to HRC, 93 percent of Fortune 500 companies have sexuality protections and 75 percent have gender-identity protections for their employees. Ernst & Young (EY), which received a 100 on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index, is one of those companies.
“People are going to make mistakes, but the important thing is to open your heart and mind,” EY Inclusiveness Director Chris Crespo said.
Crespo joined HRC's Bailey at the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s (NGLCC) International Business & Leadership Conference for a discussion about transgender inclusivity in the workplace. During the 75-minute session, they outlined best practices for companies and coworkers when it comes to fostering an inclusive environment for trans professionals. Among the recommendations were a company-wide anti-discrimination policy, an LGBTQ benefits liaison and gender-neutral facilities.
“If you can de-gender the language, it makes things so much easier,” noted Crespo. As an example, she recommended using the term “parental leave” instead of “maternal leave.”
While gender-neutral restrooms were a significant topic of conversation at the trans-inclusivity panel -- as they are in the current news cycle -- Bailey emphasized their use shouldn’t be mandatory.
“We do not want to require transgender or gender-nonconforming people to use a particular restroom,” he said. The preferable approach, according to Bailey, would be to let employees -- both trans and cisgender -- use either a gender-neutral restroom or one that corresponds to their gender identity.
Several organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, offer best-practice guides for companies looking to become more transgender-inclusive. Here are just a few: