How can we best be supportive and respectful of our employees' preferences?
What it means to the employer and employee.
MAY 18, 2021
One of our employees has disclosed to me that they are trans and has asked to be addressed as female. How can we best be supportive of them?
First, let this employee know that you support her and ask her how she defines support, i.e., what support she'd like to receive. Then ensure she receives fair and equal treatment in the workplace. Trans individuals are often the victims of workplace harassment. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, “more than one in four transgender people have lost a job due to bias, and more than three-fourths have experienced some form of workplace discrimination.”
You can also support your trans employee by stressing your commitment to equal employment and related protections. Affirm her right to express her gender freely and without discrimination. Use her correct pronouns and new name if she’s chosen one. Encourage her to choose what restroom she wants to use. And ask her what details she’d like shared with her colleagues and whether she’d like her email and other company profiles updated.
You won’t be able to modify legal documents like the I-9 unless she legally changes her name, but you can ask her if she’d like changes made to any non-legal documents. You do not need, and she should not have to provide, any medical or legal documentation of her gender identity.
If you or she have concerns about discrimination, it might be beneficial to remind employees about your prohibitions on harassment, relevant company policies, equal employment opportunity, and expected behavior. You might also consider adding a transgender-inclusive policy in your handbook. We have one available in the HR Support Center.
Kyle is a professional author, editor, and researcher specializing in workplace culture, retention strategies, and employee engagement. He has previously worked with book publishers, educational institutions, magazines, news and opinion websites, nationally known business leaders, and non-profit organizations. He has a BA in English, an MA in philosophy, and a PHR certification.