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Know the Rights of Transgender Employees

Recent laws restricting which bathrooms transgender people can use in other states has recently put a spotlight on the issue of transgender rights in the workplace. Transgender individuals, meaning those who were born male or female and now identify as a different gender, are not a protected class under Oklahoma law. However, the EEOC has taken steps recently to defend adverse employment actions against transgender employees under Title VII's more general protections for gender guidelines, so it's important to keep this in mind if your business is facing a complaint from someone who identifies as transgender. 

Transgender Issues in the Workplace

Currently, an estimated 700,000 people in the U.S. identify as transgender. Many have taken steps, such as hormone therapy, to transition to their preferred gender. Some have had sex reassignment surgery, but neither is a requirement to be considered transgender under federal law. The EEOC takes the position that any discrimination against a transgender person is discrimination based on sex, which violates Chapter VII. No federal laws specifically protect transgender people, however.

Typically, three major issues arise in the workplace with transgender individuals that could result in complaints to the EEOC. The first is restroom use. The EEOC has held that transgender employees are entitled to use the restroom of their choice, regardless of any complaints from other employees. Employers may want to consider instituting single occupancy restrooms for all employees to avoid legal issues with restroom use.

The second issue is pronoun usage. If an employee begins working for a company as a man, and after several years transitions into a woman, managers and other employees should begin referring to this employee by female pronouns, and any other new name she requests. This can avoid complaints of harassments.

Finally, transgender employees are entitled to dress as their chosen gender in accordance with a company's dress code. A transgender male employee cannot be reprimanded for wearing a business suit to the office if this is in line with how other men in the office dress.

Looking For An Employment Defense Attorney?

Transgender employees have rights just like every other employee, so it's important to keep this in mind when dealing with any complaints or requests for accommodations from them. If your business may be facing litigation as a result of an incident involving a current or former transgender employee, Frasier, Frasier & Hickman can help. To schedule a consultation about your case, contact our Tulsa office today, 918-779-3658.

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