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Federal guidelines for employers of transgender people

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have published guidance for employers in New York that have a transgender person on staff. The guidelines intend to reduce the possibility of creating a hostile workplace, which might result in an allegation of employment discrimination.

According to the EEOC, an employer should accept the gender identity of a worker and use the appropriate pronoun when communicating with or about the worker. Both verbal and written communications within the workplace should use the gender label desired by the person.

Because restroom access is a known issue at workplaces when a transgender employee is present, OSHA has established rules on the subject. The worker's chosen gender identity should determine which restroom or locker room that the person may use. The rule comes into effect as soon as the person identifies by a new gender. For example, even during the process of transitioning through sex-reassignment treatments, the transgender person has the right to use the restroom that corresponds with the person's identity. An employee, however, must provide the employer with notice of the transgender status to be entitled to restroom access that matches gender identity.

Although the courts have yet to clearly establish protection from discrimination for transgender individuals, the EEOC has made clear by its legal actions since 2012 that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should include transgender people. A person who has experienced workplace discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race or age could consult an attorney about the recourse that may be available. An attorney might explain how the person could document discrimination, which could include retaliatory acts or a hostile working environment. If evidence is present, an attorney could prepare a claim seeking compensation for the damages that have been sustained.

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