Workplace policies are a necessary part of any functioning organization, but for transgender and non-binary folks they can have a huge and lasting impact. Well-considered and implemented policies can be a source of validation and safety for those transitioning. On the other hand, policies that don't consider or reflect the needs of trans and non-binary employees can be actively harmful.
Creating new policies that are targeted towards a certain group can be a touchy subject. You may find that existing and more general policies can often be extended to cover the specific needs of transgender and non-binary employees.
Employees should be able to use the facility that corresponds to their gender identity.
- Do you have any all-gender or single occupancy bathrooms or changing rooms in your space? How many are there and where are they?
- If you have a pair of single occupancy bathrooms that are labeled "Men" and "Women", can you change them both to be all-gender?
- Do all employees know that their behavior in bathroom and locker rooms is governed by the organizational harassment policy, including questioning someone’s right to use that facility?
- How will you handle an employee and/or other tenants of a building that are uncomfortable with a transgender or non-binary individual using the bathroom?
- If you have employees that work outside of a traditional office environment, how will you accommodate their bathroom and other facility needs?
- Do your nursing rooms allow use by trans men and non-binary parents who need to nurse?
- AMA – Talking points: Transgender individuals’ access to public facilities (PDF)
- AMA – Issue brief: Transgender individuals’ access to public facilities (PDF)
Discrimination, Bullying, and Harassment
Existing policies and laws that apply to your workplace almost certainly state that discrimination, bullying, and harassment are not tolerated. Transgender and non-binary employees are interested in whether these policies cover them as well, and whether your organization's leadership and HR Department will have their back.
- What are the state and local laws that affect transgender and non-binary people where your employees work?
- Is gender identity considered a protected class? (In Iowa, the answer is yes)
- If your organization has multiple locations, do these laws vary across locations?
What is covered by your policies in terms of transgender and non-binary individuals?
- Is consistent, insistent, and intentional misgendering (using the incorrect pronouns or name) considered harassment?
- What would happen if a transgender or non-binary employee had their right to use a bathroom or locker room questioned by a coworker? Would this be considered harassment?
- What would happen if an employee who’s gender presentation doesn’t align with traditional expectations had their right to use a bathroom or locker room questioned by a coworker (e.g. a female employee with very short hair)? How can your policies protect all employees by being inclusive?
- Transwhat – Combat Transphobia
All employees should be allowed to wear clothing that matches their gender identity and gender expression.
- What is your dress code? Are all parts of the dress code necessary for employees to perform their job functions?
- If you have a gender-specific dress code, is it possible for you to make it gender neutral?
Coming out, or the ongoing process of sharing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity with others, should be strictly in control of the individual who is coming out. This doesn't apply only to those transitioning in your workplace — people that have already transitioned may be keeping that fact private.
- Is confidentiality assured if an individual decides to come out to someone at your organization (especially to leadership or management)?
What policies can potentially cover your employees in terms of the privacy of their gender identity, status as transgender or non-binary, and/or sexuality?
- Don't: Out someone without their permission.
- What are the laws and company policies that keep medical information private?
Asking about medical procedures or other physical changes should be off limits.
- Don’t: Ask whether someone has had “the surgery.” This question is both inaccurate and inappropriate.
- Do: Continue to give appropriate compliments such as “I like your haircut,” or “I love those shoes.”
- Voluntary over-sharing can cause problems as well when a precedent is set for other employees. Employees should not feel like they need to share details of their own medical situation (trans, non-binary, or otherwise).
What are the company policies in place regarding other questions that are inappropriate for the workplace?
- Any questions that are inappropriate to be asked of cisgender employees are still inappropriate if asked to trans or non-binary employees.
A gender marker is an indication of someone’s gender on an official record, commonly “F”, “M”, or “X”. Gender marker changes can be complicated and time consuming because there is no one system of record in the United States. There are often roadblocks depending on the state of residence or birth, and non-binary folks often don't have a choice of gender marker that accurately reflects their identity.
A transitioning individual may need to change their gender marker in many different places, not even considering the workplace:
- State ID and/or driver's license
- Social Security Administration
- Birth Certificate (not possible in several states)
- Are pronouns separated from gender markers as much as possible in your systems?
- Which internal systems need to be updated by HR after a gender marker changes? What is the system of record for that change (e.g. state ID)?
- What are the requirements for you to inform your health insurance company that a gender marker has changed?
- If non-binary markers are available for your employees, such as "X", how will your systems and health insurance company handle it?
- If an employee cannot change a gender marker in a certain way, how will you be able to accommodate them otherwise?
- Are there any systems that can be updated without a legal gender marker change?
- Are there any systems or paperwork that do not truly need a gender marker where it can be removed (e.g. an employee ID card)?
- Transgender Law Center – State-by-State Overview: Changing Gender Markers on Birth Certificates
Many, although not all, transitioning employees will decide to change their name.
Legal name changes can be difficult, costly, and take a long time. Which internal records can be updated without a legal name change?
- Badges and name tags
- Staff directories and photos
- Email addresses and signature blocks
- Business cards
- Physical nameplates on offices and desks
- Instant messaging programs such as Slack
- Do you already let employees use nicknames or shorter versions of their legal name at work? Would a transitioning individual's request be treated differently?
- Do you make it harder for transitioning individuals to change their name than you would someone getting married and changing their name?
- Transgender Law Center – Identity Documents Resources