Individuals whose gender is different than the sex listed at birth often face huge challenges in both their personal and professional lives. In Washington state, the Human Rights Commission tries to minimize this harm by enforcing strong workplace rules and other protections for transgender people.
Employment can be especially difficult for transgender individuals who are in the process of transitioning. However, whether a trans person decides to pursue affirming surgery or not, state law protects their right to express their true identity without discrimination.
1. Which restroom can transitioning employees use?
Many places of employment have gender-specific restrooms. However, under state law, transgender employees have a right to use the restroom that matches their individual gender identity.
2. How does the law treat transitioning surgeries?
Employees seeking medical and/or therapeutic treatment during their transition have the same rights as other workers with temporary disability issues. In addition to respecting requests for time off during procedures and recovery, employers must provide reasonable accommodations for those requiring additional medical leave. This may include doctor’s visits, hormone therapy and counseling.
3. What about name changes during transition?
Official, external-facing company records must include an employee’s current legal name for the purpose of tax forms, workers’ compensation, payroll records and other formal types of identification. However, for in-house, non-legal communications, the employer should respect individual employee requests to have their name and gender correctly identified: for instance, in emails, photo directories, on business cards or on workplace signs.
Transgender rights are human rights. However, navigating a transition while at work still poses many risks. Whether due to misconceptions about names or pronouns or unfounded worries about the transition process itself, trans employees should know that the law is on their side.