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Monday, August 8, 2011

How to Avoid Getting Sued for Workplace Sexual Harassment of Transgender Employees

Posted By on Mon, Aug 8, 2011 at 7:25 AM

Kristina Wertz
  • Kristina Wertz

Thanks to Kristina Wertz, legal director of San Francisco's Transgender Law Center, Transportation Security Administration managers at Los Angeles

International Airport will undergo mandatory sensitivity training as part of a legal settlement.

Wertz' client, Ashley Yang, was fired last year for using what her employer said was the "wrong" restroom.

But LAX wasn't the last bastion of discrimination against people who choose to change their gender. Wertz tells us that surveys show 70 percent of transgender Californians have been harassed on the job. So we asked Wertz to share some tips for employers to educate them.

Ensuring a harassment-free workplace mostly means adhering to basic principles of respect, Wertz tells us.

"It's quite common for people to think that, when someone comes out as a transgender person, it's an open door to ask them questions about their lives," she says.

So a good workplace management practice would involve "educating people about sexual harrassment, and that prying into someone's personal transition amounts to sexual harassment."

Wertz said that workplace antidiscrimination training should include the following:

  • respecting people's names, and the pronoun they use to describe themselves.
  • giving them access to appropriate facilities, allowing them to comply with dress code consistent with gender identity.

  • making sure their health care benefits are inclusive of medically necessary care for transgender people.
Now that the TSA managers at LAX have been forced to implement training along these principles, the agency will be better for it, Wertz says.

"I think this case sends a signal to employers that in America, nobody should have to hide who they are to earn a living," she says. "Ashley was forced to hide who she is just to keep her job. And the TSA will be a better agency by taking steps to make sure this never happens."

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