To get ahead of the curve, employers should start adopting more inclusive policies aimed at accommodating transgender employees. To date, 19 states and the District of Columbia have adopted laws prohibiting discrimination in employment and public accommodations based on both gender identity and sexual orientation (another three states only prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation). As we have previously reported, federal contractors are prohibited from discriminating against employers based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The EEOC has also sued private employers for Title VII discrimination based on sex when an employer fired a transgender employee. Even Congress has recently considered Title VII-like protections for employees based on their gender identity or expression. The trend toward protecting workers and others based on their gender identity is gaining momentum, and employers should be paying close attention.
To be proactive, employers should start thinking of ways to create a work environment where employees feel safe, welcome, and valued. Because employees may be in the process of transitioning without informing their employers, or because an employee may present as their identified gender without advance notice, it is important to maintain open communications with employees regarding non-discrimination and accommodations for transgender individuals.
Below are five ways to start encouraging a more communicative and inclusive environment in the workplace: