rainbowsfLGBT and transgender rights have made the headlines several times this summer, causing many businessowners to evaluate whether changes need to be made to ensure they are accommodating LGBT and transgender employees in the workplace properly.  Transgender employees can include transsexuals, cross-dressing employees, and other employees that do not conform to traditional gender roles, dress, habits, or other characteristics.  LGBT and transgender individuals often suffer discrimination in various aspects of day-to-day life, and the workplace can be a breeding ground of allegations of discrimination, harassment, a hostile work environment, or other type of conduct barred by California’s Fair Employment and Housing laws.  Here are some tips on handling LGBT and transgender individuals in the workplace.

Dress Code Policies. Dress code policies should be reviewed so as to eliminate gender stereotypes, such as stating that men must wear pants or trousers, or that women must wear skirts, dresses, or similar “feminine” clothing. Employers may want to consider adding provisions that accommodate employees dressing in accordance with their gender expression at the workplace.

Benefits. Benefits policies should also be updated so as not to deny benefits to LGBT employees or Transgender employees (or their domestic partners, children, and step-children) on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Name Changes. Transgender or LGBT employees may prefer using shortened names, middle names, nicknames, or other names to more accurately reflect their gender identity or sexual orientation. Employers should demonstrate sensitivity towards these issues and not insist that an employee use their birth name (for example, on business cards, name placards, security badges, etc.)

Addressing Grievances. If an LGBT or Transgender employee has a grievance against the business or another coworker (or even a client or vendor), the process should begin with an initial meeting with the employee to gather information about the grievance (preferably with another staff member). Then a separate meeting with the complained-of party should take place (again, with the presence of another staff member), to address the concerns.

Dealing with Snooping or Offensive Coworkers. A sizeable number of harassment/discrimination claims arise from snooping or offensive coworkers who sometimes feel as though they can say and do anything simply because they are not in positions of power. Although the legal rules for liability on the company’s part are different when the offensive conduct is perpetrated by coworkers rather than a supervisor, the employer must still take action if becoming aware that there is a problem in the workplace.

Restroom / Dressing Room / Locker Use.  One of the top issues of sensitivity for transgender employees are use of gender-specific restrooms, dressing rooms, or lockers. employers should take steps to provide the LGBT/Transgender employee with privacy and open a dialogue about the employee’s comfort and preference.

The Employee’s Disclosure Preferences. Finally, it is important to take note of the employee’s disclosure preferences. Some LGBT / Transgender employees may prefer that all other coworkers, supervisors, etc., know about their status right away; others may prefer a more gradual sharing of information. If the employee indicates that his/her transition status or other status is confidential, then it may also be a good idea to keep an ear open for workplace gossip about the employee. An ounce of prevention is often worth a pound of cure.

AXIS Legal Counsel’s Business and Corporations Practice provides legal advice to numerous businesses with a variety of legal matters involving employees and labor law. We can assist in establishing compliance with California’s Employment and Wage & Hour laws, employee handbooks, leave policies, promotions, demotions, terminations, payroll matters, and other employment requirements.  AXIS offers full-service legal support to businesses and companies, and can also assist your company with business formations and governance, contracts, deals, and transactions, administration & operations, risk management / insurancelabor/employment matters, intellectual property, healthcare, crisis management, directors/officers, private/data security, technology, statutory/legal compliance, and business litigation when disputes with other businesses arise.

For information on retaining AXIS Legal Counsel to represent your business in connection with any legal matter, contact info@axislegalca.com or call (213) 403-0130 for a confidential consultation.

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