To date, there are nineteen states and the District of Columbia which have laws that protect the rights of transgender people. These laws vary from state to state. Recently, North Carolina adopted a law that restricts transgenders from using the restrooms appropriate to the gender with which they identify.
Within days after the bill was passed, a gender discrimination lawyer filed a lawsuit filed a lawsuit against North Carolina's governor on behalf of multiple individuals and the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, claiming that the law is unconstitutional.¹ Groups have rallied in support of the LGBT community in response to the lawsuit.
Offering Support in Your Environment
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) more than 200 cities and counties across the country have banned gender discrimination. Many large companies have developed and enacted transgender policies in the workplace.
These businesses have created an environment that is vital for the successful transition of the transgender employer and increased the potential of their operation by opening their doors to a greater range of talent. Although we see more acceptance of LGBT individuals, there are still misunderstandings about transgender people and the laws that apply to them. For example:
- Transgender Is Not the Same as Homosexual – People who are gay or lesbian prefer members of their own sex as mates. They are born with either male or female genitalia, and they are happy with the gender they have been designated. Transgenders, on the other hand, do notidentify with the gender they are designated at birth that is based on their genitalia. They have a deep feeling of belonging more to the other sex. A transgender person may be attracted to the same or opposite sex. Transgender people are not exclusively heterosexual or homosexual. If a person is protected by a law that bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, it usually includes discriminating against a transgender person.
- Transgender vs. Non-Conforming – Some people undergo surgery and/or hormone treatment to reassign their gender to the one with which they most closely identify. Non-conforming individuals also identify with the opposite of the gender they were assigned at birth, but they do not undergo gender reassignment. Regardless of whether an employee is in the early stages of reassignment, or they are simply living their life according to their gender identity, they have the same rights under the law.
- Laws That Protect Transgender Employees – The employee has the right to be referred to as being of the sex with which they identify and have this information documented in all employment records. Any intentional refusal to do so may be considered gender discrimination in the workplace, and the individual has the right to file a lawsuit for discrimination and/or harassment.
- Differences from State to State – For the states that already have laws to protect transgender people against discrimination, these laws differ according to the state. For example, some only offer protection in certain areas of employment, while others protect you in any workplace.
- Restroom Assignment – As mentioned previously in the discussion about the new law passed in North Carolina, a transgender person has the right to use the restroom for the sex with which they identify. Additionally, transgender employees cannot be made to use a different restroom than the other employees based on their transgender classification.
- Flexible Dress Code Policies – While employers still have the same right to enact a dress code on employees, those who are transgender may not be made to wear garments that are not compatible with their gender identity or expression. The only flexibility that you are required to offer is with regards to gender-appropriate choices.
Making policies that are favorable to transgender employees is an easy way to “set the stage” for what you expect as treatment for your trans employees. Ensuring your other workers treat them with respect may be more challenging.
Start by implementing a transgender policy and implement a no-tolerance policy for discrimination or harassment. Never single out transgender individuals, either as a means to separate them from other employees or to prevent them from having the same opportunities in your organization.
It is the responsibility of every employer and employee to protect the rights of those individuals who are contributing to the overall success of the company they represent.