When we talk about the LGBTQ experience at work, often all the letters get lumped together, and while there is certainly a lot of unity and intersection within the queer community, the experience of being trans, especially at work, brings some unique challenges.
While discrimination on the basis of sex has been illegal for over 50 years under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it wasn’t until the summer of 2020 that the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that federal law prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The case that finally brought that groundbreaking ruling was a trans woman named Aimee Stephens who sued her employer, a Detroit funeral home, that openly discriminated against her when she transitioned during her time working there.
The ACLU took up Stephens’s case and one of the lawyers who argued that case to the Supreme Court is Gabriel Arkles. Arkles is now the senior counsel at the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, and he joined me on this episode of The New Way We Work to talk about how to build more inclusive workplaces for trans employees.
One of the biggest hurdles trans employees (or cisgender employees with trans family members) face is the proliferation of exclusionary or discriminatory healthcare. As Arkles points out, even policies and employers who cover some level of gender-affirming surgery and coverage often don’t cover lifesaving procedures, which can leave trans people with heavy financial burdens.
In addition to making healthcare coverage more inclusive, Arkles recommends employers and allies can continue to normalize (but not require) pronoun use, and discontinue gendered dress codes and expectations. For more ideas, he points to the Vice article “100 Ways to Make the World Better for Non-Binary People.” In a year that has already seen over 100 anti-trans bills across over 30 states, it’s more important than ever.