When you think about workplace safety, what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s being issued protective equipment to reduce injury, processes to report employer misconduct, or a clear and concise evacuation plan in the event of a fire or other emergency.
For many of us, feeling safe at work is something we’ve become accustomed to and may take for granted. But for others, especially members of minority groups and the LGBTQ community, workplace safety can feel like an afterthought.
This is certainly true for transgender individuals. Transgender – or trans – is the term used for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth. Some trans people identify as trans men or trans women; others describe themselves using descriptive terms including non-binary, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, agender, or bigender. One in three Americans know someone who is transgender – these are our friends and family members, our neighbors, our peers, and our colleagues.
Challenges Facing The Transgender Community
The trans community faces tremendous stigma in society, and discrimination against transgender people is all too common in school settings and the workplace. The Center for America Progress notes that “90 percent of transgender workers report some form of harassment or mistreatment on the job” due to their gender identity. This includes being overlooked or fired from a job, having received a negative performance review or been denied a promotion, or verbally or physically abused.
Employers should familiarize themselves with the challenges facing their trans employees. Doing so can help ensure employers are in compliance with federal, state, and local laws established to help protect the trans community, but also with the goal of creating a healthy workplace environment for all.
1. Gender Dysphoria
Some trans people might experience something called gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria refers to the discomfort and distress felt among individuals whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth. This condition can become debilitating and interfere with day-to-day activities. Mind Diagnostics offers a confidential test that may be helpful when looking to determine if you’re experiencing gender dysphoria. Based on the results, you can work with your doctor to help manage your feelings.
The rate of discrimination against trans people at the workplace is staggering, and stigma and harassment are also rampant in society. In some cases, harassment can become violent and even life-threatening. According to Human Rights Campaign, the rate of violence perpetrated against trans people is more severe than that against the average person. The majority of transgender people have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner, and 47% have been sexually assaulted. Nearly 30 trans and gender non-conforming people were violently killed in 2020.
3. Lack of Healthcare Coverage
The U.S. healthcare system falls short when it comes to serving the trans community. Human Rights Campaign Foundation data shows 22% of trans people and 32% of trans people of color live without health insurance and 29% have been refused healthcare because of their gender identity.
Studies show that 29% of trans adults live in poverty, and this figure increases for trans people in the Black, Latinx, Alaska Native, Asian, Native Americans, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.
Workplace Discrimination Against Transgender People Is Illegal
The Supreme Court ruled in 2020 that federal law prohibits anti-transgender discrimination in the workplace (Bostock v. Clayton County). Yet, more work is needed to ensure all employees are properly protected.
The National Center for Transgender Equality offers helpful information about transgender rights and the avenues transgender individuals can pursue should they be discriminated against at work. In summary:
- Federal law makes it illegal to fire, refuse to hire, harass, or otherwise discriminate due to gender identity, gender transition, sex assigned at birth, or transgender status.
- Trans people have a right not to be fired or refused a job or promotion because they are transgender.
- Severe or widespread sex-based harassment is unlawful when an employer does not take steps to stop it. Harassment may include jokes or derogatory comments, intentional misuse of names or pronouns, and invasive or disrespectful personal questions.
- Trans people have the right to safe and adequate access to restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity.
- Employers cannot prohibit or force a trans person from disclosing their transgender status or gender identity, nor can they disclose someone’s transgender status without consent.