Transgender Discrimination in the Workplace
Throughout the past few years especially, there have been a lot of movements advocating for the transgender community’s rights in the workplace. The most notable legislation includes the Supreme Court case Bostock v. Clayton County, which on June 15, 2020, declared that discrimination towards transgender people in the workplace is prohibited. Even with legislation like this being passed in the United States, ensuring that certain rights are protected, the transgender community still faces many difficulties in the workplace on a daily basis.
Disproportionate unemployment rates
The process itself of applying to a job and successfully completing an interview without being discriminated against, is a challenge for the transgender community. In many cases, employers have an internal bias against transgender applicants and do not want them working for their company. Even though there are laws in place to protect transgender applicants from this exact form of discrimination, this form of discrimination can be hard to prove. As a result of this, the unemployment rate is extremely high in this community compared to the cisgender population.
Abusive coworkers and unprepared employers
When a transgender person starts a job at a new company, they unfortunately are likely to face multiple different types of discrimination. They can face anything from having verbally abusive co-workers to discovering their employer is completely unprepared to meet their needs and ensure their safety. Transgender employees are often asked inappropriate, and even illegal questions about their medical information. This community is also commonly prevented from securing a promotion or even communicating with a company’s clients. Most concerningly, 7% of transgender employees in the United States have reported experiencing physical violence and 6% have reported experiencing sexual assault in the workplace.
It is important to mention that these are only the reported incidences. Many transgender employees are too embarrassed or fearful to come forward because of possible repercussions and financial hardships they could face as a result.
No laws regarding bathrooms in the workplace
There is a legal requirement for employers in the United States to give their employees equal access to bathrooms. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has even given companies information on what the best practices are when it comes to ensuring transgender employees have access to bathrooms that correspond to what gender they identify as. However, there are no state or federal laws that require employers to make sure transgender employees have access to bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity.
What can transgender employees do to protect themselves?
As mentioned earlier, there are several ways that transgender employees are discriminated against in the workplace. So, the question is what are transgender employees doing to fight back against these challenges?
Speak with their company’s Human Resources department
The first step is that they try to resolve these issues with the company they are working for. They can contact their company’s Human Resources department or whatever internal complaint process is available at their company and schedule a meeting where they can talk about the unfair treatment they have been experiencing. Sometimes employers aren’t conscious of their wrongdoings.
For example, they may have been micro aggressive. Saying something like “You’re my first transgender friend” to a coworker for example, is a microaggression. This is something trans employees face often. Sometimes companies are able to confront the employee responsible for the wrongdoing and hold them accountable depending on the offense. Sometimes upper management and/or Human Resources is made aware of the discriminatory behavior that one of their employees has been doing, and they are able to handle the situation accordingly.
Use social media to raise awareness & educate
The current ambiguity in state and federal laws for transgender employees is causing a wave of people to take their frustrations to social media. The transgender community is attempting to combat the discrimination they face in the workplace by sharing LGTBQ+ friendly companies with one another other social media. They are also sharing what companies other transgender people should avoid working for and sharing their experiences of being discriminated against.
Rely on their allies in the workplace
Another way that the transgender community is handling workplace discrimination is educating the general public about the treatment they are experiencing and finding allies at the companies they work for. People are starting to use social media to share data and personal experiences with people outside of the transgender community so that they are aware of what is happening to some transgender employees. This is helpful because it encourages other to vote for helpful legislation for transgender employees and to become better allies at their own companies.
Similar to this, transgender people are also finding who their allies are in the workplace in order to help them combat any unfair treatment they are experiencing. An ally in this case is a coworker who will help bring up any issues that are negatively impacting their transgender coworker to management and help to hold their coworkers accountable. For example, some transgender employees to not have access to a bathroom that they feel comfortable using. An ally would bring this issue up to upper management in order to show upper management that they care that this problem gets resolved in order for their coworker to have a fair, positive experience in the workplace.
Filing a lawsuit
Lastly, another solution that is more extreme and not as utilized as other tactics when it comes to fighting back against transgender discrimination in the workplace is filing a lawsuit against the company or individual responsible. A transgender employee can file an EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) charge and obtain a right-to-sue letter. They can either settle or take the case to court. Since the lengthy process often requires physical evidence and money to find a lawyer this option is not as utilized, but it is effective. It will ensure that in the future that employee or company will understand that there are consequences when they engage in discriminatory acts against transgender employees.
Transgender employees are facing many unique challenges in the workplace, which are sometimes complicated by the ambiguity and lack of enforcement of certain laws. There are several ways that transgender employees are handling these challenges. As new laws get passed in the future and public attitudes continue to shift, it’s inevitable that new challenges and solutions will arise in the near future.