How to Make an Employee Gender Transition Plan

Individual discussing their employee gender transition plan with a manager.

Diverse workplaces financially outperform the competition and are more likely to attract top talent. A crucial part of creating your company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) strategy is to make sure LGBTQ+ employees and job candidates feel supported.

As you’re establishing inclusive transgender HR policies, it’s helpful to create an employee gender transition plan. Here’s how to write a plan that will help make a more inclusive environment for people who are transgender in the workplace.

How the Law Protects Transgender Employees

In the United States, there are federal and state laws that protect LGBTQ+ employees from workplace discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from being discriminated against on the basis of their “race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.”

In June 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that the protection must extend to LGBTQ+ employees. Likewise, there are federal and state laws regarding medical leave. At a national level, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected medical leave within 12 months because of a “serious health condition.”

Depending on the employee’s medical needs, some transgender employees may be eligible for unpaid leave under FMLA. However, some state laws provide a certain amount of paid leave as well, so an HR representative should double-check.

What to Include in an Employee Gender Transition Plan

When you’re writing an employee gender transition plan, it’s helpful to include relevant federal and state laws, your company’s DEI mission and vision statement, guidelines for employees, and policies promoting inclusivity. You may also want to include educational resources such as information about pronoun and name preferences and a glossary of terms.

For example, you could note the difference between sex, gender identity, and gender expression and provide information about the transitioning process.

Guidelines for Employees Who are Transitioning

You may choose to have employees start by telling an HR representative about their transition plan so that they have support. Next, the HR representative would meet with the employee and their direct manager to discuss their transition plan and next steps. The group can discuss the particulars of the plan, including:

  • Dates and milestones in the employee’s transition process.
  • A plan for telling coworkers.
  • Logistics, such as when to change the employee’s information if they change their name.

To maintain confidentiality and privacy, the employee should help decide when and how to tell coworkers about their transition, and the information they’re comfortable sharing. If the employee plans on taking off work, the HR representative can check state laws and company policies to determine whether they’re eligible for paid or unpaid leave.

Advice for HR Representatives and Managers

Effective employee transition plans include best practices for the HR department and managers. For example, you may want your HR department to organize anti-discrimination and anti-bias trainings.

You may also want an HR representative, executive, the employee’s manager, and an LGBTQ+ expert to help lead the conversation with coworkers about an employee’s gender transition. It can be valuable to have the manager and executive share their support of the employee and reiterate their commitment to creating a welcoming culture for all employees.

Additionally, the HR representative and an LGBTQ+ expert can also offer to have one-on-one conversations with coworkers. If an employee changes their name, an HR representative should work with other departments to adjust email addresses, badges, business cards, and the company website by the agreed-upon date. If an employee legally changes their name, it may be necessary to fill out new employee contracts and payroll paperwork.

Suggestions for Coworkers of Employees Who are Transitioning

Be sure to include advice that helps coworkers be good allies to people who are transgender in the workplace. For example, you could say that coworkers should use the person’s preferred name and pronouns. You could also stipulate that coworkers not ask the employee questions about their medical history or plans and avoid asking invasive questions.

If your organization doesn’t have one, you could create an employee resource group (ERG) for LGBTQ+ employees and allies. The group can help all LGBTQ+ employees feel heard and supported and can provide allies with resources and advice for helping to foster an inclusive workplace.

Policy Updates to Consider

If the HR department decides to change policies, include them in the employee gender transition plan and the employee handbook. For example, the department may choose to adjust the dress code, guidelines for restrooms and locker rooms, paid leave policy, and health insurance plan options.

If it hasn’t already, the HR team may want to edit the anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and employment discrimination policies. It can also be helpful to update the employee handbook to use gender-neutral pronouns and include gender-neutral policies. There are also ways you can improve your hiring process and policies, such as:

  • Writing more inclusive job descriptions.
  • Using blind applications.
  • Having hiring managers complete anti-bias training.
  • Offering interview accommodations.
  • Standardizing your interview process.

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