Ask HR: How Do We Support Our Transgender Employee?
Ask HR: How Do We Support Our Transgender Employee?

Ask HR: How Do We Support Our Transgender Employee?

Somewhere between half a million and a million individuals in the U.S. identify as transgender, and that number continues to grow. As the transgender population grows, so does the chance that one of your employees will ask questions about this. What should you do when one of your employees discloses the fact that they are transgender? The experts at HR Support Center are skilled at handling all types of situations, including this one. Here's our advice for making sure you are treating every member of your staff respectfully.

Question:

One of our new employees has disclosed to me that she is transgender and has asked to be addressed as female. What is the best way to approach this matter with her co-workers?

Answer from Eric, HR Pro:

We recommend that you affirm the employee’s right to express her gender freely and without discrimination. This includes using the correct pronouns and a new proper name, if she’s chosen one.

As to how to inform everyone at your organization that they should address this employee as female, the steps and timing of transitioning vary, so consult with the employee on what specific information she would like shared with her colleagues. You should also ask her whether she’d like her email and other company profiles updated. Don’t ask her for unnecessary details, but allow her to share what she wants. While you won’t be able to change legal documents (e.g., form I-9) unless she legally changes her name, you can change her name on non-legal documents if she requests it.

Transgender individuals are often the victims of workplace harassment, so it is essential to stress your commitment to equal employment and related protections. You might also want to remind employees about your prohibitions on harassment, relevant company policies, equal employment opportunity, and expected behavior.

Regarding restroom use, transgender employees should be allowed to choose the safest and most appropriate option for themselves. Medical or legal documentation of an employee’s gender identity, such as proof of surgeries, should not be required. Remember that not all transgender people undergo a medical transition. Co-workers who have personal concerns should be invited to have an honest discussion with management or an HR representative.

Ensuring fair and equal treatment will help make transgender employees feel valued and build trust in your organization.


Eric, HR ProEric has extensive experience in HR, management, and training. He has held several senior HR positions, including as the HR & Operations Manager for an award-winning interactive marketing agency and as HR Director for a national law firm. Eric graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Economics from the University of Oregon with a minor in Business Administration. Eric is also active in the community, volunteering with the regional Human Resources Management Association Advocacy Team and with youth training programs.


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