March 01, 2013

Is Your Law Practice Welcoming to Transgender Employees and Clients?

Catherine E. Reuben

If you had a new employee or client, a transgender woman, would she feel safe, comfortable, and welcome in your office? Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and/or expression, and there are similar laws pending in other states. These laws often apply to law practices both in their capacity as employers and as professionals serving members of the public. Further, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) takes the position that discrimination against transgender persons violates Title VII’s prohibition against gender discrimination. Some state courts have reached the same conclusion with respect to their state’s gender discrimination laws, which often apply to smaller employers not covered by Title VII. In short, the question posed above is not just one of diversity and inclusion—not that they are not worthy goals in and of themselves—but also one of civil rights. Whether or not you are in a state (yet) that expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity, you need to be aware of this issue. This article discusses steps you can take now to promote a more welcoming, inclusive, and also legally compliant work environment.

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