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Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace: Introduction and Business Case

 Human Rights Campaign Foundation created Transgender Inclusion in the Workplace to provide human resource and other employment professionals with an overview of the legal and other issues encompassing transgender inclusion, as well as the best practices that leading U.S. businesses utilize today — from discrimination and benefits policies to internal practices that reflect how gender is expressed and integrated in the workplace.

At the end of 2004, when the first edition of this guide was published, only 27 of the Fortune 500 companies prohibited discrimination based on gender identity. As of January 2008, that number had increased to 153 companies (see "GLBT Equality at the Fortune 500"). While non-discrimination policies are just one component of inclusive workplaces, these numbers demonstrate that, increasingly, U.S. employers value their transgender employees. Moreover, these businesses stand ahead of the curve of evolving employment laws throughout the country.

Cities, counties and states throughout the U.S. are passing laws and ordinances that establish expectations of transgender inclusion for employers. Today, nearly 100 cities and counties, 12 states and the District of Columbia have laws and ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity (see "Non-Discrimination Laws on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity"). And public opinion continues to sway in favor of fairness for transgender people in employment.

But even with increasing protections and acceptance throughout the United States, surveys find that at least one of every five transgender people have experienced workplace discrimination and harassment (see "Discrimination against Transgender Workers"). And the vast majority of employer-based health insurance plans exclude coverage for essential medical care for transgender people, placing tremendous burden and stress on transgender workers and employees with transgender family members (see "Health Insurance Discrimination for Transgender People").

Such discrimination, and subsequent loss of talent, comes at a significant cost to employers, many of whom are expected to suffer from shortages of qualified workers. To address many of these issues, this guide details successful practices that employers and employees have shared or developed with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, in addition to drawing from the expertise of transgender workplace advocates (see "Recommended Policies and Practices").

Ultimately, employers that incorporate gender identity in non-discrimination policies and other business practices:

  • Stay ahead of evolving local, state and federal laws.
  • Bolster employee recruitment and retention efforts that emphasize diversity.
  • Mitigate the risk of legal discrimination claims.

 “It doesn’t matter what employees’ orientation, heritage or gender is. It’s their talent. Just to be competitive, companies really have to do this.”
— Jim Sinocchi, Director of Workforce Communications for IBM
Global Workforce Diversity

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