Using a transgender individual's preferred name is part of creating an inclusive work environment.
As HR leaders think about how to create an inclusive workplace in 2018, accommodating transgender talent by allowing for the use of each employee's preferred name is an important change to consider. Treating talent with respect is key to not only avoiding discrimination claims, but also to creating a positive reputation as an inclusive employer.
A totaljobs survey found that 60 percent of transgender individuals have experienced workplace discrimination, and 40 percent actively seek transgender-friendly employers when job searching. The transgender-identified population experiences three times higher unemployment than the general population, per Out & Equal, while 27 percent report being "fired, not hired, or denied a promotion" in the last year because of gender identity.
Updating your firm's transgender inclusion policy is a critical step to take in 2018. HR leaders should understand not only why preferred pronouns and names matter, but when the use of an employee's legal name is a necessity.
What Is a Preferred Name vs. Legal Name?
Transgender individuals may choose a preferred name that matches their gender identity. During and even after transition, the individual's preferred name may be different from their legal name. HR policies for inclusion and gender transition should address this possible disparity with consideration for respect, inclusion and legal requirements.
Discrimination laws regarding sexual identity vary by country, state and city. Regional laws also have varying definitions of when an individual's gender transition begins. In some areas, employers are legally required to address employees by pronouns and a name that matches their biological gender regardless of transition activities. Legal counsel can provide more specific understanding of gender identity protections in the areas in which your organization operates.
Minimizing the Use of Legal Names at Work
From the perspective of inclusion, using an individual's preferred name except for situations in which a legal name is required is typically the best policy. Guidelines from the Massachusetts LGBTQ Bar Association recommend employers "allow employees to self-identify their preferred name (including non-legal name) and choice of pronoun [...] on personnel records, internal and external employee directories, business cards, websites and other written and electronic records."
The use of a transgender individual's legal name is required on W-2 forms and may also be needed to ensure accuracy of claims with benefits forms. In some cases, a legal name may be reflected on professional licensing. SHRM recommends creating notes in your organization's human capital management tools that clearly address the individual's preferred name. HR should also be prepared to make prompt updates to W-2s and benefits records if an individual's legal name is changed.
Respecting the Rights of Transgender Employees
Some inclusive employers treat the intentional use of a nonpreferred name or pronouns as harassment. A model inclusion policy created by The Transgender Law Center, inspired by policies at firms such as Ernst & Young and Chevron, states that the use of a preferred name is a right regardless of whether the individual has obtained a court-ordered name change. Guidelines from the Human Rights Commission for employers simply advise employers to "recognize a transgender employee's preferred name and gender to the greatest possible extent."
At many organizations, HR and other leadership are working to create an environment of respect through policy. Today, according to Out & Equal, 92 percent of Fortune 500 companies have policies in place to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Creating HR policies to model respectful treatment of transgender employees should include both flexibility and consistency. These guidelines should accommodate variation between individuals undergoing gender transition while providing enough structure for clarity on supporting transgender colleagues.
Creating an Inclusive Workplace
While updating policies to address the use of a transgender individual's preferred name is just one part of creating an inclusive work environment, it's an important step for an organization's nondiscrimination and gender transition policies. While legislative requirements vary, many agree that the use of a preferred name and pronoun is a human right.
"Transgender people still face extraordinary barriers in schools and in the workplace," says Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy at the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)."Their dignity has to be respected."
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