Metro Weekly

Task Force and OHR release guidance on transgender employees

Joint report meant to serve as a "how-to" guide for employers in promoting transgender inclusion at work

A transgender symbol inside a red triangle (Photo: JesseValentinePortz, via Wikimedia).
A transgender symbol inside a red triangle (Photo: JesseValentinePortz, via Wikimedia).

The National LGBTQ Task Force and the District of Columbia’s Office of Human Rights (OHR) have partnered together to release guidance for employers and workplaces on how to be culturally competent when it comes to interacting with transgender employees and job applicants.

The guidance, issued in a report released Monday, is intended to provide examples of best practices for a variety of issues, including allowing access to restrooms and facilities that correspond with a person’s gender identity, enforcing the company’s dress code, mediating workplace disputes and how to interact with transgender or gender-nonconforming prospective employees. It also includes an outline of which states have gender identity protections, defines terms that may arise when interacting with transgender individuals, and hypothetical scenarios on how best to respond to issues involving the transgender community.

“Everyone, including transgender people, deserves a fair chance at a good paying job and the ability to provide for themselves and their families,” Victoria RodrĂ­guez-Roldán, the Trans/Gender Nonconforming Justice Project Director for the Task Force, said in a statement. “Transgender people face formidable discrimination and harassment in the workplace. This new resource provides vital recommendations for employes and human resource specialists looking to ensure that transgender people are treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.”

According to the 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey, 90 percent of transgender people have reported experiencing harassment, discrimination, or mistreatment at work. In 2015, OHR’s own undercover study revealed that nearly half of prospective employers in the District expressed a preference for less-qualified cisgender applicants over a more qualified transgender applicant, despite D.C.’s law prohibiting discrimination in employment based on gender identity

The report will give employers in places like the District that have nondiscrimination laws in place more information to educate themselves and change their hiring practices. But OHR also hopes to encourage other employers who may be in states without gender identity protections to adopt these internal policies independent of their state legislatures, which could be beneficial to both a company by giving it an edge over competitors. The report reiterates this, alluding to the benefits of being seen as an inclusive workplace and of be being able to attract and retain talented workers who will help enhance productivity.

“While many jurisdictions across the nation do not have explicit protections for transgender workers, in the District of Columbia we are fortunate to have a strong law that prohibits employment discrimination against transgender people,” MĂłnica Palacio, OHR’s director, said in a statement. “Yet many times employers that want to create welcoming environments are unsure of how best to do that. We believe this best practices guide will be an important starting place for those employers that want to build transgender-inclusive workplaces.”

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