A Guide For Supporting Employees Coming Out As Transgender

ASSUMPTIONS: An employee is transitioning. This employee has come out to one or more individuals at the office. This employee intends to pursue some form of social transition that would involve notifying employers and colleagues. This guide is specific to employees who transition after holding a job for some time but may also apply to employees entering a workplace immediately after a hiring decision and prior to their first day.

Guidelines for the Employer

  • Emphasize support of employees and their transitions
  • Review relevant nondiscrimination policies (link to other guide here)
  • Advise coworkers about affirming employees and their transitions
  • Model correct use of transitioning employees’ name and pronouns in all communications
  • All processes should be developed with participation and consent of transitioning employees

Questions for the Employer

  • Who is the transitioning employee’s point of contact? Someone in HR? Elsewhere?
  • Who will be involved in implementing an employee’s transition plan? This should include the employee, the employee’s direct supervisor, an HR representative, and anyone else who will be involved (per employee’s comfort and permission). 
  • Who, if anyone, would have access to records or information containing former names and legal names? Employees should be made aware of this. 
  • Does the newsroom owner have relevant policies and procedures that guide or constrain the newsroom’s policies? This may be relevant if the newsroom is owned by a university or larger media conglomerate. 
  • How familiar are points of contact expected to be with newsroom policies around transgender issues? How will they be trained, and how will they stay informed after initial trainings? 
  • How will employees know about newsroom policies related to transgender status?
    • This includes but is not limited to policies regarding bathroom use, employment rights, and how to report harassment or discrimination. It also includes transgender health care coverage in newsroom medical plans.
  • Who does the employee need to meet with? Most employees will likely need to consult their immediate supervisor after discussing social transition plans with HR or another primary point person. An employee may desire a larger meeting to inform others of their transition. 
  • What records need to be updated for employees? How and when will those changes be made? Can they be made?
    • Consider headshots, newsroom email ID, online display names, press badges, name plates, HR logins, and bylines. If the newsroom is affiliated with a larger conglomerate, there may be systems that can’t be changed without a formal request to a technology department.
    • Employers should ensure all name changes, photographs, and other documents are updated in advance of any announcement, unless the employee prefers a different timeline.
  • What sort of social, medical, and disability leave are available to transitioning employees? Who will communicate with the employee about any relevant leave programs and how to qualify? These programs vary by state laws and by workplace. 
  • Who will notify management of the employee’s transition so that newsroom leaders can model appropriate pronouns, names and behavior?
  • What training will be given to coworkers?
  • How will management respond to coworkers or collegues disrepecting employees based on their transgender status? How will management respond to colleagues who refuse to use the appropriate names and pronouns for transitioning employees? How will employees be made aware of relevant anti-harassment and nondiscrimination laws?
  • How will management respond to harassment or discrimination against transgender employees originating from outside the newsroom? Do existing newsroom policies include transgender reporters when stipulating how to handle harassment at events, while reporting, or on social media? 

Questions for the Employee

  • When will the social transition in the office formally occur? This means the date that the employee will change their name and pronouns. They may also start using a different restroom/locker room, if they have not already been using the facilities most appropriate for their gender identity. 
  • How and in what format should coworkers be made aware of someone’s new name and pronouns, if relevant?
  • Would they prefer to announce new names and pronouns to relevant coworkers or communicate the information one-on-one? 
  • Would they prefer to announce new names and pronouns themselves or have a supervisor communicate relevant information in a meeting or via email? 
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