LEGAL CLINIC: Employment Law And Transgender Rights
In recent months, the transgender community has faced a large degree of media attention, which not only has encouraged discussion around transsexual individuals, but has also shone light on the rights of individuals, no matter their gender or sexuality.
Most notably, Caitlyn Jenner has been the centre of attention and whilst she has attracted an overwhelming level of support, there were still those who voiced their hostility towards her. Most notably, musician Drake Bell insisted on calling her ‘Bruce.’ There have also been further high profile cases including the case of Leyth Jamal who made a claim against Saks Fifth Avenue stating that she was told to use the men’s bathroom, told to dress more masculine, and eventually dismissed for being transgender.
Unfortunately, cases such as these represent the tip of the iceberg for those undergoing gender reassignment, many of whom face abuse, discrimination and harassment from those around them.
On a positive note, however, businesses and employers globally are now taking note of the importance of diversity in the workplace and are changing their approach accordingly. High profile employers such as Goldman Sachs and Barclays are already leading the way for acceptance and integration of LGBT employees. Like many other organisations, they recognise the need to retain the very best talent.
Advice to individuals who are considering, or undergoing, transitioning to their target gender is conflicted at times and is often informed by US law, which is very different to our own. To follow are some common questions that we as a law firm have received from the transgender community, which we hope will provide guidance on your rights in the workplace.
Here we look at your frequently asked questions about your rights.
What does the law say?
What about gender queer individuals, or those who adopt a different gender temporarily (e.g. transvestites)?
I have heard my employer can dismiss me for being transgender – is this true?
Do I have to disclose that I am transgender?
I have decided to live life as my target gender, how do I ‘come out’ to my colleagues?
My colleagues have been largely supportive, but there is one who is making me really uncomfortable by joking about my physical appearance and changes. What do I do?
I have various treatments planned as part of my gender reassignment? Am I entitled to time off?
Fortunately, social media has made conversations regarding gender reassignment easier and employers are becoming increasingly understanding of the issues faced by transgender employees. There are employers who will provide an environment where you are allowed to be your authentic self and rewarded for your skills and experience. Importantly, if there are evident signs of bullying or harassment concerning your gender or sexuality, speak to your manager or seek advice from a third party – don’t sit in silence, the law is there to protect you.
By Zee Hussain, partner and Head of the Employment Department at Colemans-ctts