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A Legal Overview of Gender Identity in the Workplace

We are living in a world few could have imagined 50 years ago. Picture a scene from Mad Men: A busy Manhattan office flowing with white males. They all dressed the same, grew up the same way, and saw the world more or less alike. In this twenty-first century, that is no longer the case. The world has evolved and the workplace must reflect that.

We are at the beginning of a new millennium where speech is extremely important. So as employers, humans, friends, or strangers, we all must accommodate everyone’s experience of the world in our language and actions. Gender identity is not a new thing, but it has become more prevalent in today’s society. Employers must create a work environment free of discrimination and harassment based on gender identity.

But, how do you do that? It’s not complicated, just listen to others and be more conscious. If someone expresses a preference about how they wish to be addressed or referred to, respect them. If you are unsure of what pronoun to use, avoid using “he” or “she.” “They” can be used as a gender-neutral pronoun in the singular. However, if you feel comfortable, it is okay to ask an employee what gender pronoun they prefer to be addressed by. Making this effort is not only the most respectful thing to do, but it will help avoid discrimination lawsuits.

We must be more conscious of our linguistic choices and the things we say. In order to change our speech patterns, we must change our thinking. Our thinking must evolve with the world.

People should be judged on the quality of their work and not irrelevant characteristics such as gender identity. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) protects transgender employees from discrimination based on gender identity. The EEOC enforces a series of federal laws that prohibit prejudice based on color, sex, race, religion, age, disability, nationality, and genetic information. This includes unequal treatment in the form of salaries, hiring, working conditions, performance expectations, promotions, and bonuses.

The most common forms of gender identity discrimination are:

  • Firing a transgender employee after finding out about their identity or planned transition
  • Refusing access to workplace restroom facilities
  • Requiring a transgender employee to use a restroom not consistent with their identity
  • Harassment
  • Refusing to investigate harassment claims

If you think you have been discriminated against at work because of gender related issues, don’t wait to get legal help. Call the Law Office of David Kaplan for a free consultation today 973-426-0021