Transgender workers may face a distinct set of challenges in the workplace including within the physical workplace and its facilities, but also regarding higher-than-average levels of discrimination and harassment. A person can make a discrimination claim against an employer or fellow employee for any unlawful discrimination, including gender reassignment harassment.
In this blog, we seek to provide some awareness of some of the common types of transphobia in the workplace, which may amount to bullying and/or harassment, so that you can take a proactive stance in challenging this behaviour in the workplace.
Examples of transphobia which may occur in the workplace and preventative actions you can take include:
Purposeful pronoun misuse
If unsure, do not assume! You can respectfully ask which pronoun somebody prefers to use. Speculating will inevitably turn into gossip which undermines dignity. If a colleague has asked to be referred to by a particular pronounce, this should be respected. If you make a mistake, you should acknowledge that you have done so and apologise.
Disclosing somebodies trans history or medical treatment
Whether or not an employee decides to disclose their trans history in the workplace is a personal matter for them. You must not disclose an employee’s history unless you have received explicit consent to do so. Likewise, their medical history or any ongoing treatment is a personal matter to them. Any inappropriate questions about medical treatment can be a breach to an employees right to privacy and considered harassment.
Discrimination through access to facilities
Assuming toilets/changing and other facilities are not gender neutral, employees should normally be free to choose the appropriate facility which reflects the gender in which they present. When an employee undergoes a gender reassignment process, this becomes a legal obligation. Good practice would be to consult employees who are transitioning and make plans for this. We recommend that you offer gender neutral facilities in order to reduce the risk of discriminating against transgender people and to create a more inclusive site for staff and visitors.
This is a small glimpse into three of the most common instances of transphobia that occur in the workplace. Ultimately, it is the legal responsibility of the employer to ensure that staff, regardless of whether they propose to undergo, are undergoing or have already undergone gender reassignment, do not suffer discriminatory treatment at work.
For further reading, check out the UK Government resource on the recruitment and retention of transgender staff.
If you would like to discuss your legal obligations or how to promote a trans inclusive workplace, and foster an environment where all employees can reach their full potential, contact us today!