This article was first published in the March 2013 issue of the GPSolo eReport. It has been updated to reflect best practices in diversity, inclusion, and equity, as well as recent changes in the laws protecting transgender employees. This updated article will be distributed during the breakout session “Transgender Cultural Competencies” at the ABA Section of Litigation’s 2019 Corporate Counsel CLE Seminar, which will take place February 14 to 16, 2019, at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio, Texas. Click here to learn more and register.
If your new employee or client were a transgender woman, would she feel safe, comfortable, and welcome in your office? Twenty-one 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 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.