For LGBTQ workers here in California and the rest of the nation, 2019 promises to be a milestone year. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case that may determine whether federal anti-discrimination laws protect gay or transgender individuals.
That legal test comes at a time when more people are identifying themselves as gender nonconforming, meaning they do not consider themselves as females or males, and instead prefer the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “them” rather than “he” or “she.”
Employers adapt to changing norms
Some employers in California are already adapting to what can be a confusing issue. For instance, companies are adding a person’s preferred pronouns to job applications, onboarding material, email signatures and social media profiles as well as when introducing new employees at meetings and events.
How can co-workers be good colleagues?
Most workplaces aspire to be healthy and productive environments, which encourage diversity, respect and inclusiveness. Here’s how you can welcome a gender-nonconforming co-worker:
- Use a person’s preferred pronouns, or apologize and correct yourself if you make a mistake
- Do your homework on gender identity and, if necessary, consult a resource guide from a respected agency
- Include your own preferred pronouns on emails, name tags and business cards signaling you are open to gender alternatives
- Encourage your company to offer gender-neutral bathrooms
- If you are unsure of a person’s gender identity, ask them if it’s appropriate to inquire, but respect their privacy above all else
Several large employers have changed policies in response
United Airlines has included a “nonbinary” option for customers booking tickets, and retirement company TIAA tells its employees to include their personal pronouns when introducing themselves to clients. California has some of the strongest protections in the nation for gender nonconforming individuals. Employers cannot discriminate against anyone over sexual orientation or gender identity. If you have been the target of workplace discrimination, an experienced employment law attorney will protect your rights.