Social Security Administration Puts an End to Policy Endangering Transgender Workers
September 16, 2011 by Robin Maril, Legislative Counsel, Administrative Advocacy
Our colleagues at the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) report that the Social Security Administration (SSA) will end the gender verification process that has disproportionately impacted transgender workers across the country. Under the policy, the SSA issued “gender no-match” letters to employers when the gender marker of an employee’s W-2 form failed to match SSA records. The verification process was initially created to ensure that employees receive accurate benefits and have a valid social security number for employment; however, the policy of verifying gender markers has proven unnecessary and has cost many transgender workers their jobs.
In practice, transgender employees whose employers received “gender no-match” letters were frequently subject to invasive questions regarding medical information and gender identity, as well as potential discrimination and termination. Lacking clear federal employment protection from discrimination based on gender identity, many transgender employees who were outed by the SSA were forced to navigate prejudiced or ignorant employers and co-workers in order to retain employment.
We applaud this change as a meaningful step toward respecting the basic rights and dignity of transgender employees in the workplace and congratulate NCTE for their successful efforts with the Social Security Administration. The Human Rights Campaign also included this policy change as part of our Blueprint for Positive Change, a series of recommendations to the Obama administration on policy and regulatory changes that would improve the lives of LGBT Americans.
Despite this success, a further barrier remains for transgender people at the Social Security Administration. Current SSA policy requiring transgender individuals to provide proof of sex reassignment surgery in order to change the gender markers in their Social Security records. This surgical requirement poses an often insurmountable burden for individuals who cannot obtain surgery for medical or financial reasons. HRC urges SSA to implement a fairer standard that ensures transgender individuals have full access to the Social Security system.