If you haven’t heard of Caitlyn Jenner, I’d like to know where you’ve been hiding so I can join you! With the premiere of the new TV show Call Me Cait just around the corner on the E! network, and the much publicized news of Caitlyn Jenner’s entrance into the world exploding all over social media, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the prevalence of transgender issues in the world. Of course, from my perspective, this easily translates into a question of how transgender and diversity issues play out in the workplace as well. Preventing harassment in the workplace is a responsibility that falls on the employer, and as stories such as Caitlyn’s become more prominent in the media, it’s an important time for employers to become educated and protect their companies from possible litigation. Caitlyn has already paved the way for this summer’s reality TV hit, Big Brother, to introduce the first transgender contestant, Audrey. What’s next? As more and more stories are shared, the likelihood of this affecting your own workplace increases.
As a product of the millennial culture, I find that many of my peers have been raised in a society where #diversity is acceptable. It is a commonly held belief among young adults today that a person’s identification as #transgender does not change the core of who that person is, or their capabilities in the workplace. However, as we have discussed before on Peoplescape’s blog, the generational differences that are seen in today’s workplace make it an interesting melting pot of values, morals, beliefs, and tolerances. It is imperative that you, as the employer, set guidelines and rules in a WRITTEN format for all employees to sign, agree to, and abide by during their employment. [tweetthis]Employers need WRITTEN policies for employees to sign and abide by. #transgender[/tweetthis]
Otherwise, your less-than-accepting employees are opening you (as the manager/owner/supervisor/CEO) up for liability. As we all know, for any employer with 50 or more employees, managers must be trained on sexual harassment every two years in California. Recently, bullying was added in to that mandatory training as well. It would be my suggestion as an HR professional to also include a slide or two on #transgender identity within your required sexual harassment supervisor training. I would also propose that your workplace harassment zero tolerance policy be included in the employee handbook for every new hire to sign as part of their orientation.
According to CalChamber, “Sexual harassment in the workplace spurs huge lawsuits, affects productivity and damages your company or organization’s reputation.” A payout for this type of lawsuit easily hits the millions! Another easy way to protect your company is to follow the requirements regarding law postings that must be displayed in a common area to which all employees have access (i.e. the lunch or break room). Combined, California law and federal law under both Title VII and the FEHA guidelines, protect against harassment regarding gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, pregnancy, disability, race, ethnicity, and national origin. In regards to the recently headlining transgender issues, this raises interesting questions regarding whether gender is defined or adopted, as transgender individuals identify as one gender although they may biologically be a different sex. With these changes on the horizon, it’s best to be prepared and stay protected with your legal postings, handbook, training, and open door policy!