Roughly a month and a half ago, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Transgender Work Opportunity Act into law, making California the first state in the nation to require employers to offer harassment training related to transgender workers. In more detail, the act expands the anti-discrimination training requirements already established in the state's Fair Housing and Employment Act, requiring these educational sessions to include topics related to harassment based on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.
As of the beginning of next year, businesses in the state with more than 50 employees will need to provide managers or anyone with supervisor authority with biennial anti-harassment training that includes these new topics. And for newly hired or promoted managers, this training will need to be completed within six months of their assuming the position.
Updating your anti-harassment education program? Consider reading: Does Your Harassment Training Cover These 5 Areas?
In addition, the act requires every business to prominently display a new poster created by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing that outlines the protected classes related to workplace discrimination.
These efforts stand in stark contrast of national trends, as two months ago U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions rolled back standing Obama-era policy that extended protections from the 1964 Civil Rights Act to transgender employees. To clarify, Sessions argued that the existing policy extended beyond the authority of the department and stated that the rolling back should not “be construed to condone mistreatment on the basis or gender identity, or to express a policy view on whether Congress should amend Title VII or provide different or additional protection.”
He further added that "[t]he Justice Department must and will continue to affirm the dignity of all people, including transgender individuals.”
While California has passed this new legislation, 49 states have not. So your business shouldn't have to worry about updating its training unless you're based out of the Golden State, right? After all, your managers probably already know better than to discriminate against transgender employees and job candidates.
Unfortunately, research seems to suggest otherwise. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, workplace discrimination against transgender employees is uncomfortably pervasive.
Their research found that after being identified as "transgender" in the workplace:
Which may explain why the National Center for Transgender Equality found in a 2015 survey that the unemployment rate for transgender Americans was 15 percent—triple the national average at the time.
So if your business is looking to create an inclusive, inviting workplace for every employee, applicant, vendor, and customer, you might consider updating your anti-discrimination policies and training—even if it isn't currently warranted by law.
Besides updating your training, your business can take a number of measures to encourage tolerance, civility, and equality. Draft new corporate standards and employee guidelines that offer clear protection to transgender workers.
Establish easy-to-use mechanisms for employees to report any incidents of harassment or discrimination that they experience, and since workers often fear reprisal (particularly when the harasser holds managerial authority) offer the ability to make these reports anonymously. And most importantly, investigate every claim.
Your business might also consider providing staff with the tools and education to help them identify and mitigate whatever unconscious biases they may hold. When your workers are aware of these potentially discriminatory behaviors, they can better limit the impact these assumptions may have on workplace decisions.
If creating a safe, welcoming environment for all of your staff isn't enough motivation for you, it's very likely that at least some, if not all, of the 18 states and more than 200 cities that treat gender expression as a protected class will follow suit and pass similar training requirements in the near future. So your business should take measures now to update your education efforts, before the decision is made for you.
To find out how we can help your organization develop and maintain a healthy, inclusive corporate culture, request a demo of our diversity and inclusion courses today.
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