Affirming Gender Identity in the Workplace

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #101, Spring 2003.

What does it mean when an employer agrees not to discriminate against workers or customers based on ?gender identity??

Gender identity has been defined as ?a person?s various individual attributes as they are understood to be male and female.?? In a psychological sense, gender identity refers to a person?s internal, deeply felt sense of being either male or female, which may differ from the person?s anatomical sex.
When an employer pledges or recognizes her or his responsibility not to discriminate based on gender identity, it means the employer will base hiring, promotion, compensation or dismissal decisions on work-related performance and skills, and not on irrelevant gender-based characteristics or the employer?s own judgments about or comfort with any individual?s gender. It means the employer respects her or his employees, including those who are or are perceived to be transgendered or transsexual, as workers and human beings.

Accordingly, if a woman is perceived to be ?too masculine? or a man ?too feminine,? these characteristics must not be factors in any employment decision. Transgendered people should be permitted to dress in accordance with their gender identity, just as any other employee does. If an employee reveals that her or his gender identity is different from that traditionally associated with her or his sex at birth (or the employer knows or assumes such information to be true about an employee), employers must not discriminate against the employee based on that knowledge or belief. Should an employer be told or receive evidence that an employee is crossdressing outside the work environment, the employer recognizes that this is no cause for adverse discrimination. Further, should an employee present evidence that he or she is undergoing a medically-supervised transition for a change of sex based on gender identity, the employer will not take any adverse action against the employee on that basis. The employer will also make any
necessary accommodations, if applicable, and will refrain from instituting policies or practices that negatively affect the employee?s work environment. The employer also indicates her or his willingness to become educated in matters pertaining to gender-variance and diversity, and to ensure that the work environment is safe and free from prejudice or harassment based on gender identity for all employees and customers.

Some employers that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity include: AMR/American Airlines; Apple Computer; IBM Corporation; Multnomah County, Oregon; San Francisco City and County, California; Xerox Corporation.