May 06, 2008

Transgender Employee Resources

I went to a great event last week called "Putting Transgender People to Work," cohosted by Out & Equal and the Transgender Economic Empowerment Initiative. The speakers made the business case for hiring and retaining transgender employees and offered strategies for making companies friendlier for transgender employees and customers. One of the featured speakers, Susan Friedman of Macy's West, talked about creating a nondiscrimination program, complete with policy language, training, and written guides for managers and employees, for Macy's and Bloomingdale's stores.

A big part of the business case is the tremendous untapped human resource of transgender employees -- employees whose identification or expression of their gender is different from the gender they were born into or the stereotypes associated with it. According to the "Good Jobs Now!" survey cited by the speakers, transgender people are disproportionately unemployed or underemployed, and more highly educated, than the general population of California. That's the carrot: The stick is that discrimination on the basis of gender identity -- which includes discrimination against transgender employees and applicants -- is illegal in a handful of states (including California) and a much larger number of cities and counties.

For information on making your company more welcoming to transgender employees and applicants, check out the extensive resources available at the Transgender Law Center's website. You'll find information on everything from revising your policies to include gender identity as a protected category to making bathrooms accessible to transgender employees, handling coworker concerns, and respecting transgender employees' privacy. TLC also does workplace trainings.

Lisa Guerin