Legal

Office of Human Rights Publishes Best Practices Guide for Employers on Transgender Rights

By Jon Hyman

Jun. 9, 2016

The District of Columbia Office of Human Rights, in connection with the National LGBTQ Task Force, recently published a 19-page best practices guide for employers on transgender issues in the workplace. The document, titled Valuing Transgender Applicants & Employees: A Best Practices Guide for Employers [pdf], when taken together with earlier guidance from the EEOC on transgender bathroom access and broader guidance from the EEOC on LGBT discrimination continues to signal that issue is one that you can no longer ignore.

The D.C. Office of Human Rights Guidance offers nine “best practices” for employers is dealing with transgender employees and job applicants.

  1. Maintain confidentiality
  2. Use proper names and pronouns
  3. Ensure access to restrooms and other facilities
  4. Implement gender-neutral dress codes
  5. Address challenges with other employees and coworkers
  6. Use proactive methods to uncover discrimination
  7. Ensure interviews are welcoming
  8. Ensure fair background checks
  9. Avoid irrelevant questions when checking references

While the guide offers solid tips all around, the most interesting concerns email naming conventions (and is something of which I would never have thought).

To make the transition process easier for existing employees, it is recommended all work email addresses use an employee’s surname rather than their given name. This way a change in email address is unnecessary if an employee transitions. For example, the address jsmith@company. com for employee Jane Smith would be preferable to jane.smith@company.com or jane@company.com. A transgender employee can easily be outed by a change in email address that may not be necessary if the email address does not include their given name.

At the end of the day, this issue, while politically and socially charged, boils down to my Golden Rule of Employee Relations — treat you employees as you would want to be treated (or would want your spouse, child, parent, etc.) to be treated. If employers adopted this simple life rule in their workplaces, most workplace disputes would be eliminated … as would my job security. On second thought. …

Jon Hyman is a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland. To comment, email editors@workforce.com.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

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