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INSIGHT

Fairness in the employment setting can be everything

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

I have worked closely with two organizations: The Transgender Institute (TTI) and the Gender Policy Associates (GPA).

TTI is an organization that provides therapy, consultation, and coaching to transgender people. This is a population that is much misunderstood; in schools they are subject to extensive bullying. At work, they are often subject to discrimination. Although some may see their challenges differently, to me it’s often representative of widespread issues that we all may face in one form or another.

The prevalence of the transgender population is astounding: They make up one percent of the total population; that is, one in 100 persons is transgender. I believe the transgender population is the next frontier in social justice.

Reaching the point where a transgender person is “comfortable in their skin” is only half the battle. The other half is how they are accepted after they come out. My focus is on the employment setting and helping employees and employers cope with this matter as it unfolds at work. There are also lessons here that can apply to other workplace topics.

I am not going to spend much time talking about the medical condition called Gender Dysphoria. If you want more information, I suggest you go to the TTI website, www.transinstitute.com.

What I do focus on is providing insight to transgender people who are employed, insight for non-transgendered employees who will be working alongside transgendered co-workers, and information to their employers regarding legal compliance. Every time someone comes out, there is an opportunity to support and assist. Additionally, every time an employee comes out, there is an opportunity for a lawsuit and/or a complaint to the EEOC or to the State Human Rights Commission. The law is pretty clear: This population’s rights are protected and the fines and consequences for violating their rights are steep. Beyond the legal and financial consequences, the interpersonal sequences are significant.

Transgender people coming out at work are putting themselves on the line with great courage. They are asking for the support of their coworkers and supervisors. We spend a significant amount of time at work, and relationships at work are very important in each of our lives. Being discriminated against is one thing, but being rejected is quite another. This is where social justice is involved.

I ask you to consider the issues at the fairness level first. Employees and employers should think in terms of what is fair and just for the employee. Think in terms of what that employee is probably worried about: “How will I be treated at work? Will I lose my job? Will I be gossiped about?” More often than not, these are good people and engaged employees. They are wondering and hoping if their workplace contributions, their often extensive support for others, and their employer will be enough to see them through their coming out. It should be, and how that transpires says much about your workplace environment.

Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., CMC is President/Partner of Labor Management Advisory Group, Inc. and HR Solutions: On-Call, both based in Kansas City, MO. For more information, visit www.laborgroup.com or call (913) 927-0229.

The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.


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