How employers can ensure the workplace is inclusive for transgender employees

For the second installment in this series, we will focus on ways that employers can ensure that the workplace is an inclusive and welcoming environment for their transgender employees.  Much of this seems obvious in a world that has been so shaped by laws protecting employees from discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.  But with many states and, most notably, the federal government still failing to extend those protections to transgender employees, we want to offer some resources to employers who have not yet considered these issues.

Transition Guidelines

First, it is important that employers create a clear set of guidelines addressing work-related considerations that may arise as transgender employees transition in the workplace.  As we discussed in the first installment, this is one of the best ways to avoid discomfort or anxiety which might arise for an employee during the transition.  But transition guidelines are also an important tool for members of HR and management who are on the ground guiding employees through this sensitive phase and who want to be sure that they are doing so in a manner which adheres to the company’s expectations.

Transition guidelines should be flexible enough to adapt to the intricacies of each employee’s transition.  However, they should (at a minimum) address who a transgender employee should go to for assistance with the transition process, how HR functions like name changes to payroll, website, and email will be handled, how disclosure to coworkers and, if necessary, customers or clients will be handled, and whether restroom and dress code policies will be impacted by the transition.

There are excellent resources for employers interested in creating these guidelines which include a number of examples from Fortune 500 companies.  Check them out here:

Medical Benefits

Next, while this seems to be changing for the better, there are still many group health plans that do not cover medical services and procedures related to gender identity and the transition process – including (but certainly not limited to) counseling, hormone therapy, and/or surgical procedures.  These services can be prohibitively expensive for individuals trying to pay out of pocket despite being integral to’ a successful transition.  Thus, we urge employers to examine their group health policies to determine whether these crucial services are covered and, if not, to amend the plan to ensure that they are.

Restroom Policies

Sadly, one frequent source of frustration and discomfort for transgender employees arises around access to appropriate restrooms and coworker questions and complaints regarding the same.   As a result, it is crucial that employers set forth clear restroom usage policies so that both transgender employees and their coworkers are aware of the company’s expectations.

In drafting those policies, employers should allow transgender employees to use the restroom which corresponds with their gender identity or presentation, regardless of where in the process of transitioning those employees may be.  Alternatively and, at a minimum, transgender employees should be granted access to single occupancy or unisex restrooms.

Coworker discomfort is insufficient justification for an employer to require transgender employees to use facilities which do not correspond with their gender identity.  Further, it should be made clear that coworker questions and/or harassment of transgender employees while in the restroom or regarding their restroom usage will not be tolerated.

For more information on restroom policies which accommodate transgender employees and/or on ways to adapt restroom facilities for privacy, see: and

Staff Training

Finally, it is important that employers include gender identity along with other protected categories when training their employees and managers on appropriate workplace conduct, anti-discrimination policies, and how to handle employee complaints.    Although statistics show that more and more people know and/or work with transgender individuals, many people are still unsure what it means to be transgender.  This lack of understanding is exactly what leads to stereotyping, bias and inappropriate or uncomfortable questions or conversations in the workplace.

This is exactly why employers should use their EEO training as an opportunity to educate staff and to make explicit their expectations that all employees will be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their gender identity.

We will be back in Part 3 of this series to give some pointers to coworkers on how they can serve as allies to their transgender peers in the workplace.