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Gender Transition in the Workplace

A business or organization that includes “gender identity” in its non-discrimination policy should be prepared to manage and respect an employees right to gender transition.

Businesses should institute protocols for gender transitions that clearly delineate responsibilities and expectations of transitioning employees, their supervisors, colleagues and other staff. Should an employee approach their manager or human resources with the intention to transition, be prepared by having gender transition guidelines on file. These guidelines can be in the form of an informal or formal document that is available to all human resources professionals as a resource to consistently and appropriately manage the situation and helps human resources feel adequately prepared.

Workplace transition guidelines should be flexible enough to tailor to specific needs of a transitioning employee, while specific enough to provide a consistent framework that eliminates confusion, potential mismanagement, and/or discrimination.

For example, one employee may prefer a quick start in which all their co-workers and peers are informed about the transition at the end of the work week, and comes to work the following week presenting in the new/desired gender role. Another employee may prefer a more gradual transition, in which colleagues are notified of the transition plan, but the employee does not actually present in the new gender role for several weeks. However, in both cases, the same designated contact in human resources is responsible for helping and respecting each transitioning employee and the employee’s supervisor manage the workplace transition process.

“In the absence of a [gender transition plan]… managers don’t know what to do, and that can lead to grievances and lawsuits.”
— Dr. Jillian Todd Weiss, workplace diversity consultant and author of
Transgender Workplace Diversity and the blog transworkplace.blogspot.com

What Guidelines Should Cover

Guidelines should address:

  • who in the business is charged with helping transitioning employee manage their workplace transition;

  • what a transitioning employee can expect from management;

  • what management’s expectations are for staff, transitioning employees, and any existing LGBTQ+ employee group in facilitating a successful workplace transition.

  • what the general procedure is for implementing transition-related workplace changes, such as adjusting personnel and administrative records, as well as a communication plan for coworkers and clients.

  • answers to frequently asked questions about dress codes and restroom use.

The following are examples of gender transition guidelines that can be implemented by businesses:

 

Where to Make Guidelines Available

 

Guidelines should be made accessible for employees, supervisors and human resources professionals as needed. They can be shared via:

  • Intranet –

    • HR resources section

    • LGBTQ+ employee group section

    • Link to from other applicable sections such as employment non-discrimination/ equal employment opportunity policy, dress code, restroom, locker room (if related resources are already provided)

    • Search engine keywords to target: transition guidelines, gender identity, gender expression, transgender, transsexual*, cross dress*, gender reassignment*, sex reassignment*, sex change*, transgendered*  (* these are NOT respectful or preferred terminology, but are intended to capture potential searches)

  • Employee Assistance Program resources (e.g., make available to EAP representatives)

  • Human Resources hotline resources

Senior Sponsor

When announcing an employee’s plan to transition (with employee consent), utilizing senior management can send a strong message of support for the transitioning employee and set the tone for the business’ expectations of staff going forward. Some employers assign a senior executive to act as a “sponsor” for the transitioning employee to help communicate top-down inclusive/expansive messages and expectations. Managers and Human Resources should reiterate these messages regularly and when needed. The desire to minimize disruption from the day-to-day routine and send the message that business will continue “as usual” should be carefully balanced with coworkers’ educational needs.

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