Developing Transgender Inclusive Policies and Procedures

When transgender people face stigma at work, morale, well-being, engagement, and retention all suffer. Sometimes, this stigma comes in the form of organizational policies, practices, and procedures. Human resources departments have a significant role to play in creating a welcoming workplace. Crafting thoughtful processes shows your trans employees that they are respected, supported and celebrated wherever they are on their personal journey. Read on for tips on how HR Departments can craft transgender-inclusive policies and procedures.

Start With an Audit

The best place to begin is with an audit of all current policies and practices that intersect with gender, gender identity, or gender expression. This will include everything from nondiscrimination and harassment policies to personnel records to dress codes. The Human Rights Campaign offers a toolkit for HR managers and DE&I professionals to guide the review process. A comprehensive audit will establish a baseline for the organization as a whole and provide clarity about how to proceed with your inclusion efforts.

Put It in Writing

Even though employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity is illegal, it is still important for organizations to include gender, gender identity, and gender expression in their own anti-discrimination and harassment policies. In addition to enumerating what isn’t acceptable, your policies should affirmatively state your organization’s commitment to providing a warm and supportive environment where gender diverse employees can be their authentic selves at work. Consider this statement from the City of San Francisco’s HR website:

“The City and County of San Francisco (City) is dedicated to maintaining an inclusive, respectful, safe, and productive workplace for all transgender, gender-nonconforming, gender-nonbinary, and gender-transitioning employees, applicants, and contractors. Discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on gender, gender identity, and gender expression are not tolerated.”

These policies should be clearly communicated during onboarding, supervisor training, and in periodic refresher sessions across the workforce. Include examples in policy documents and training materials to illustrate the policies in action. The documents should be readily available on the organization’s external website and intranet for all to reference.

Revise Your Practices and Procedures

A great many HR forms and systems capture an employee’s name and gender. Except where there is a bona fide legal constraint, all of these systems should default to using an employee’s preferred name. This includes internal and external personnel directories, email addresses, business cards, etc, as well as applicant tracking systems. If you don’t already have one, create a protocol for addressing situations in which an employee’s name or gender differs from what’s indicated on their legal documents. Make sure everyone involved in hiring and onboarding new employees understands the protocol.

Publish Gender Transition Guidelines

Written gender transition guidelines that outline how your organization will respond when an employee decides to transition on the job are essential. These guidelines should clearly delineate roles, responsibilities and expectations of everyone involved. They should be specific and structured enough to provide clarity, while being flexible enough to center the needs of each individual in question. Everyone who decides to transition will have different preferences regarding communication, timeline, and transition steps. Organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and Out & Equal offer invaluable resources for crafting gender transition guidelines that work for your organization.

Transgender inclusive policies and procedures play a critical role in creating a sense of belonging for trans employees. They both demonstrate and contribute to an overall culture of support and affirmation of your gender-diverse staff, and they go a long way toward eliminating invalidating or “othering” experiences at work. They also benefit cisgender (non-trans) employees by reducing uncertainty and providing clear expectations when a colleague comes out or transitions on the job.

Tucker Duval is a Human Resources and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion professional based in Athens, GA. He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and earned an MBA from Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia. He currently works as an Employment Generalist in the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government and serves as a charter member of the ACC Human Relations Commission.

Image by cecilie johnsen at unsplash.com

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