Federal Government Announces New Transgender Worker Guidance

Posted by Chris Geidner
May 27, 2011 7:30 PM |

This afternoon, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, John Berry, issued a brief memorandum to all executive department and agency heads, announcing new guidance for treatment of transgender employees of the federal government -- guidance that notes that it is "the policy of the Federal Government to treat all of its employees with dignity and respect and to provide a workplace that is free from discrimination," including based on gender identity. 

BerryTransMemo.pngBerry writes: "Over the last several years a number of agencies have requested that OPM provide them with information and advice concerning issues that may arise in connection with the employment of transgender individuals in the workplace. In response, OPM is issuing the 'Guidance Regarding the Employment of Transgender Individuals in the Federal Workplace.'"

The attached guidance details several important issues, first addressing "core concepts" -- defining gender identity, transgender and transition -- and then providing guidance for employers regarding individuals who "transition while employed" in the federal government. The guidance notes that its purpose "is not to address legal rights and remedies, but instead to provide guidance to address some of the common questions that agencies have raised with OPM regarding the employment of transgender individuals in the federal workplace."

Mara Keisling, the director of the National Center for Transgender Equality says of the guidance, "I'm really excited about it. It shows the commitment to hiring the best people and keeping the best people."

Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese added in a statement, "Today's guidance will help to ensure that all federal workers -- whether fighting fires in our national forests, prosecuting federal crimes in court, conducting groundbreaking cancer research or making sure this week's paycheck gets to your mailbox -- will be treated with the fairness and dignity they deserve."

Keisling talked with Metro Weekly about the guidance, saying, "Once [OPM] said that the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 covered gender identity, they started getting calls from various agencies saying, 'What does that mean, and how do we do this and how do we do that?'"

The guidance, she said, is OPM's attempt to answer: "Here's what we mean, and here's a little bit about it, and here's who to check with if you need more information."

Among the topics addressed in the guidance -- first noted earlier today at the blog for The Network for LGBT Health Equity at the Fenway Institute -- are "confidentiality and privacy," "dress and appearance," "names and pronouns," "sanitary and related facilities," "recordkeeping" and "insurance benefits."

As to the recordkeeping provision, OPM has provided detailed guidance on "How to Reconstruct a Personnel Folder" for when an "employee has begun working full-time in the gender role consistent with the employee's gender identity."

Additionally, OPM issued a "carrier letter," which Keisling says "is a letter to all the insurance companies [who participate in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan]. The letter says that if an employee has changed their gender from male to female, you should reflect that in their health insurance policy."

Additionally, she adds that the letter explains that such a change "doesn't preclude sex-specific care, in one direction or another. Someone like me may need a prostate exam and a mammogram, and [the letter tells the] insurance carrier that's reasonable."

As to the actual impact of the policy change, Keisling says it's limited, noting it is applicable only to federal employees.

But, she adds, "It's obviously a good thing, and I'm interested in it and I think all trans people -- all LGBT people -- should be like, 'Yeah, that's great.'

"But, it's not something that's going to be overly controversial. At least, that's what I think."

Read:

  • The OPM Guidance here.
  • The Personnel Folder instructions here.
  • The FEHB carrier letter: 2011-12.pdf.

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