Social Security Administration ends policy of outing transgender employees to employers

SSA logoThis week a little noticed but major policy change was announced by the Social Security Administration. On Thursday, the Social Security Administration confirmed that it was ending its practice of notifying employers when an employee’s gender submitted to the agency did not match Social Security records (known as a “gender no-match letter”). The previous policy had the effect of outing transgender employees.

For years, the Task Force, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights have been asking SSA to put an end to this unnecessary and discriminatory policy.

Previously, NCTE found through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that more than 700,000 “gender no-match” letters were sent last year. Without clear and adequate federal employment protections for gender identity, like those envisioned in the Employment Non-Discrimination Act which has still not passed Congress, transgender employees have little recourse for any action their employer takes after learning of an employee’s gender transition, even if they are fired due to bias.

What the Task Force and NCTE documented in the groundbreaking National Transgender Discrimination Survey is that 71% of transgender people have kept their gender or gender transition private at work for fear of discrimination. The fear appears to be well-founded: 50% experienced harassment on the job and 26% lost a job because they were transgender. The survey also showed that transgender people experience twice the rate of unemployment and, for trans people of color, the unemployment rate is much higher. For example, black respondents to the survey experienced an unemployment rate of four times the general population. Today, the Task Force with NCTE and the National Black Justice Coalition released a new report that summarizes the survey’s findings with regard to black transgender people.

The Task Force applauds this change by the Social Security Administration and the Obama administration. This seemingly minor change will have major life-saving consequences for transgender employees.