Post submitted by HRC Law Fellow James Shygelski

On Tuesday, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) released a Gender Transition Policy as part of recent efforts to raise awareness of the issues still present within the LGBTQ community. In issuing this policy, OSC aims to achieve “a diverse and inclusive workplace free of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming employees and applicants.”

In a thirteen page directive, OSC detailed their new policy for responding to the workplace challenges faced by those entering the transition process. Recognizing that transitioning is an “inherently personal” experience, the policy mainly addresses common changes and questions in the workplace, such as information privacy and confidentiality, name and pronoun usage, and access to facilities consistent with gender identity.

Under the policy terms, transitioning employees will work with supervisors and a designated Gender Transition Coordinator (GTC), to develop a Workplace Transition Plan tailored to the needs and confidentiality concerns of the employee. This system allows the employee “to decide when, with whom, and how much information to share” about their transition, while simultaneously setting a timeline for establishing name and pronoun changes, as well as allowing access to restrooms and other facilities consistent with their gender identity on the first full day of work. In addition to these services, the GTC works with the employee to ensure that all personnel records are promptly changed, federal insurance benefits are maintained and medical leave is provided through appropriate channels for those who undergo surgical transitions.

OSC also reaffirmed its commitment to adhering to existing federal regulations aimed at preventing discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity. In a press release, Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner stated “[d]iscrimination against LGBT employees in the federal workplace is illegal” and vowed to “vigorously enforce the law and conduct training and outreach to educate managers and employees on how to make their agencies diverse and inclusive.” The policy clearly details the potential for legal ramifications for intentionally violating its harassment provisions through derogatory remarks, demeaning behavior or the intentional misuse of improper pronouns or an incorrect name both verbally and in writing. Supervisors and managers are encouraged to undergo training with their staff to implement these policies, and to promote reporting any witnessed violations.  Moreover, these policies further apply in the hiring practices, granting further protections to those who began or already completed the transition process, regardless of whether or not that information was disclosed at the onset.

“We hope our policy inspires other agencies to craft their own gender transition policies,” Lerner continued.

HRC applauds OSC for implementing this important policy.

To view the OSC webpage listing LGBTQ resources, please click here.

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