New Labor Department Guidelines on Gender Identity
By Victoria M. Rodríguez Roldán, Task Force Holley Law Fellow
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced new policies and guidance clarifying that transgender federal employees and applicants for employment in the Department of Labor have protections from employment discrimination, bringing the Department in line with guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and other federal agencies. DOL’s policy cites the data from the Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality’s National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) and its findings of the pervasive levels of discrimination suffered by the trans community.
DOL recognizes in its memorandum the right of transgender employees of the Department to be referred by their proper names and pronouns, to have their privacy and confidentiality respected, instructs supervisors to not allow employees to engage in gossip or rumor spreading, and prohibits supervisors from improperly questioning transgender employees about their personal or medical situations. It provides guidance that transgender employees have the right to proper restroom access, as well as the changing of identity documents within the department. Furthermore, Labor Department transgender employees may take sick leave for transition related treatment.
This is a victory for transgender persons who often face harassment in the workplace at pervasive levels, which then translates into other forms of marginalization, such as homelessness.
The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 90% of respondents reported experiencing harassment, mistreatment, or discrimination in the workplace, or hiding who they are to avoid it. The Task Force welcomes these, along with other measures from the federal government such as the Office of Personnel Management’s guidance to all federal workplace supervisors on gender identity, and President Obama’s Executive Order 13583 establishing a Coordinated Government-wide Initiative to Promote Diversity and Inclusion in the Federal Workforce. The Task Force will continue to work with federal agencies through our New Beginning Initiative to ensure that federal agencies create policies that benefit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families.