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What Rights Do Transgender People Have in the Workplace?

What Rights Do Transgender People Have in the Workplace?

Living and working while transgender can present both incredible opportunities and significant challenges. For many, being “out” at work means embracing their authentic selves, which can foster a sense of freedom, support and confidence. However, it can also expose individuals to mental and physical harm due to discrimination or harassment. Understanding your rights as a transgender employee is crucial to navigating these complexities. Marshall Forman & Schlein LLC is here to help you understand and protect your rights in the workplace.

Federal Protections Against Discrimination

Transgender employees are protected under federal law from discrimination in the workplace. The cornerstone of these protections is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. In its landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation falls under the prohibition of sex discrimination. This means that employers with at least 15 employees cannot legally discriminate against transgender individuals regarding hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions and other employment aspects.

Asserting Your Name and Pronouns

Using the correct name and pronouns is a significant aspect of respecting a person’s gender identity. While occasional mistakes may happen, persistent misgendering or deadnaming—using someone’s birth name instead of their chosen name—can be considered harassment under certain conditions. Employers and colleagues should respect your preferred name and pronouns, and consistent disregard for these preferences may indicate discrimination. If you face such behavior, documenting incidents and reporting them to human resources is essential.

Restroom Rights and Dress Codes

Transgender employees have the right to use restrooms that align with their gender identity. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have issued guidelines affirming this right, regardless of whether an employee has undergone gender-confirming medical treatment.

Regarding dress codes, employers must ensure their policies do not enforce gender stereotypes or place unequal burdens on specific genders. The Supreme Court’s decision in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins established that gender stereotyping violates Title VII. Employers should modify dress codes to comply with these standards and apply them consistently to all employees.

Health Insurance and Personnel Policies

Transgender employees often have unique health insurance needs that have historically been overlooked. Federal law now prohibits most public and private health plans from discriminating against transgender individuals. It is unlawful to categorically exclude transition-related care or impose discriminatory limits on coverage. If your health insurance plan denies necessary transition-related care, consulting with an attorney can help you understand your rights and options.

Personnel policies should also be reviewed for inclusivity. For example, parental leave policies should apply equally to cisgender and transgender employees. The Department of Labor allows all employees, including LGBTQ employees, to take FMLA leave to care for a child they parent, regardless of a biological or legal relationship. If you feel a policy unfairly affects transgender employees, raising the issue with HR or seeking legal guidance is advisable.

Documenting Mistreatment

Discrimination is not always overt and can be challenging to prove. Keeping detailed records of any discriminatory actions, even if they seem minor, can be crucial. Emails, journal entries and witness statements can help build a case if you decide to pursue legal action. Reporting concerns to HR in writing and explicitly stating that you believe the treatment is due to your transgender status can also strengthen your position.

Discuss Your Options With an Attorney

Understanding and asserting your rights as a transgender employee is vital to ensuring a safe and respectful work environment. At Marshall Forman & Schlein LLC, we are dedicated to helping you navigate these challenges. If you believe your rights have been violated, contact us for a consultation. We are here to help you stand up for your rights and live authentically in your workplace.

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