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INSIGHT

What are the rights of transgender employees?

By Steve M. Cohen  bio

I’m disappointed, but not surprised by many reactions to Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner’s recent revelation.

I am not transgender, but I am concentrating on this population because, along with others, I see the transgender population as representing the next frontier in social justice.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but in the workplace, laws and regulation bind employers, managers, and employees. Creating a safe and hospitable work environment for all members of the organization is not only the correct thing to do, it is necessary because of significant rights and protections from state and federal governments. Violating someone’s rights creates serious legal liability. No manager or owner wants this kind of trauma or drama interfering with the flow at work.

Let’s also consider prevalence. Social research indicates that the number of transgender folk is one in a hundred. That is one percent of the population. When you factor in the people who have not yet come out, the number is likely to increase dramatically.

Chances are, you know someone who is dealing with this matter, whether you realize it or not. While therapists are assisting with people “adjusting to the process of going from male to female or going from female to male,” coworkers and supervisors are also going to be asked to assist. Because we spend so much time at work and because work relationships are so important, how the transgender person is treated at work means much.

The transgender person has the right to exist and to exist at work. Owners and managers must also recognize that not accommodating them or discriminating against them is a form of sexual harassment. Gender identity-based sexual harassment carries the same weight as any other form of sexual harassment. The fines from the government can be as high as 25 percent of the net worth of the organization.

This is just the start. Once a substantiated case of sexual harassment is documented, the fine is levied and the government opens the door for a civil suit with restitution to the victim, legal costs, and court costs—all paid by the business owner or corporation. It is a firestorm that is intended to bankrupt the business.

There are other risks for the owners and managers from non-transgender coworkers. They are going to be asked to share restrooms and make other accommodations. This is a large topic in itself, but let’s start with this: these are your fellow co-workers. They are at a fragile and vulnerable place. They will need your understanding and your cooperation. Consider giving that understanding. Your employer will be counting on it as much as your transgender coworkers.


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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