Transgender People and Employment Related Issues

Pride flag colors overlaid on an outline of the state of Massachusetts

Transgender people are targets of discrimination in many areas of their lives; this marginalization exposes them to tremendous social and economic insecurity. Perhaps most common is that transgender people often face harassment and discrimination in their workplace – mistreatment that threatens their freedom to work and live safely in their own communities.

Transgender is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth. Being transgender does not imply any specific sexual orientation. Therefore, transgender people may identify as straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.

It is illegal in the state of Massachusetts to discriminate against an individual on the basis of their gender identity in the workplace. But, what exactly is gender identity? It is one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both or neither. It is how individuals perceive themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different from their sex assignment at birth.

A person has the right not to be red or refused a job or promotion because they are transgender. Sex-based harassment is unlawful when it is severe or widespread and an employer does not take steps to stop it. Sex-based harassment can include:

Jokes or derogatory comments about transgender people

Repeated and intentional use of the wrong name or pronouns

Invasive, disrespectful personal questions

So, if you are a transgender person, what can you do to protect yourself?

Many problems can be resolved internally, either by talking with the person who is causing a problem, or by using your company’s internal complaint process.

Another possibility is having an attorney or legal organization approach your employers on your behalf. Resolving a case of workplace discrimination can be a complicated process. Don’t hesitate to seek help from a lawyer or your union representative (or both). Either way, it is important that you know that you are entitled to be treated equally, with respect and dignity as anyone else, and that there is help out there, if you need it.