Welcome! To read each post in full, click on the post title.



This is not legal advice, which can only be given by an attorney admitted to practice law in your jurisdiction after hearing all of the facts and circumstances in a particular case.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Issue: Draft Transition Plan

We have previously discussed foreseeable issues that organizational policy on transgender workplace diversity should address. One of these includes "#2. Step-by-step guidelines for accountable units - to make procedures clear and manageable." As an example of this, I set forth below a draft "gender transition plan." The gender transition plan is the mediated agreement that governs the employee's transition.

By creating such a document, HR ensures that both management and the transitioning employee understand their rights and responsibilities, and the importance of acting in concert with the organization. The draft below covers the foreseeable issues that should be mediated by HR, ensuring that HR will not let foreseeable issues slip through the cracks. The plan below is intended to be a starting point. It will likely be changed in the mediation process to address concerns of management and the employee in transition, and it will be necessary in many cases to add additional points which are of significance to the particular organization. I will explain, in italics, some of the issues pertaining to each section.

DRAFT TRANSITION PLAN

The employee known as ________________ ("the employee") has notified the Company of his/her intention to transition from one gender to another. This plan will govern the actions of the Company and the employee in regard to this gender transition, including:

  • timeline
  • dress
  • Company resources
  • ID changes
  • security clearance issues
  • facilities usage
  • appropriate norms of conduct for Company employees
  • gender transition guidelines review session
  • complaint procedures
  • deviations from plan
  • amendment of plan

1. Timeline

The employee has notified the Company that he or she will begin living in a different gender role on or about ____________________. [Sometimes employees in transition feel naturally anxious to begin living in a different gender role, and may surprise management by coming into work without warning dressed in a different gender role. Conversely, sometimes a supervisor feels the department is unready for the employee's gender transition, and may suprise the employee in transition by asking them to delay their transition until the following quarter or the following year. This section confirms the date so there can be no awkward issues surrounding it. In addition, it becomes a subject of negotiation and mediation, so if the employee's plans are inconvenient, they can be discussed before this document is finalized.

2. Dress Code

It is expected that the employee in transition will adhere to the dress code of his/her new gender, and that appropriate work attire will be worn.

The applicable dress code for the employee is as follows:

[This ensures that the employee in transition understands the appropriate attire for their new gender. Sometime, employees who are new to dressing as the opposite gender do not fully understand the cultural propriety of certain sartorial choices. In addition, if there are special dress issues for the type of work done by the employee, such as uniforms or protective gear, these can be spelled out here.]

3. Company Resources

GTL (gender transition leader) - contact info:
EAP - contact person:
Affinity Group - contact person:
Diversity Council - contact person:
Leave administration - contact person:
Insurance benefits - contact person:

[Although it may be assumed that all parties are aware of whom to contact if there is need for guidance, this is often not the case. The inability to connect easily with resources may lead to serious workplace problems.]

4. ID Changes

The name and gender on all employment records created on or after ________________ will be listed as _______________________.

The name in the HR database will be changed on or about _______________ as follows: ______________________

A new email address will be issued to the employee on or about ______________________. [This makes clear the specific records that will be changed, avoiding confusion about past records. A previous post on this issue is available.]

5. Security Clearance Issues

If the employee has a security clearance, Company industrial security will be notified by the employee in writing no later than ________________. [Gender transition is a Reportable Event.]

6. Facilities Usage

After discussion with the employee and Company management, and based on consideration of the criteria listed in the Company guidelines, the following arrangements have been made for facilities usage:

Bathrooms

Locker Rooms, if any

Other Gender-Specific Spaces, if any

If the employee is notified that he or she or she will be reassigned to another Company location, permanently or temporarily, the employee should notify the GTL as soon as possible.

[A previous post on this issue is available. The last sentence is important to avoid situations where the employee assumes that, because the issue has been resolved a particular way in one location, that other locations will automatically follow suit. This false assumption has led to lawsuits.]

7. Appropriate Norms of Conduct for Company Employees

  • Form of address - The employee shall be known by the name of ___________________________ as of ______________. The proper pronouns to use shall be ______________ (he/him or she/her).
  • Because most people have not been exposed to gender transition, it is likely that co-workers will make mistakes, such as referring to the employee in gender transition by the wrong name or pronoun, or asking inappropriate questions. Employees in transition should gently correct a co-worker who makes a mistake. It is assumed that mistakes will be less frequent after a reasonable period of time.
  • If, after a reasonable period of time, a particular employee continually addresses the employee by the wrong name or gender identity, the GTL should be notified. The employee should not attempt to correct the situation by inappropriate conduct in return.
  • If a Company employee, contractor, vendor or customer requests not to work with the employee because of his/her gender identity, such a request cannot be honored. Company cannot subject employees to adverse employment actions based on his/her personal identity. Therefore, Company cannot honor a request to isolate the employee from certain contacts. Those who choose to work with Company must respect The Company's policies. However, the GTL may be able to provide some guidance to the requester that will help make the transition easier.
  • Medical information - Other than the fact of gender transition, the employee should not discuss medical condition or procedures with other Company employees. Employees should keep medical information confidential. Discussion of such information at the workplace is a breach of confidentiality, and in such a situation the Company may take action amend the transition plan and/or take corrective action based on such information. Further, it is likely that public disclosure of sensitive medical information regarding gender transition will lower the comfort level of co-workers and require changes to the facilities usage plan.
  • Media contacts - All media contacts should be referred to the media office.
[While employees in transition and their managers could simply be pointed to these items in the company policy, the truth is that most people will never read the company policy. It is prudent to alert them to these crucial employee relations and public relations issues early on to avoid inappropriate behaviors.]

8. Guidelines Review Session

A Gender Transition Guidelines Review Session will be held with those in frequent workplace contact, including co-workers, vendors and customers who are in direct contact with the employee. This meeting will be held on or about _______. The purpose of the meeting is to inform them of changes in dress and proper forms of address, The Company's guidelines, and expected norms of conduct. Except for the fact of transition, medical privacy will be maintained.
The employee will not be present at the session in order to give attendees the opportunity to ask questions with less discomfiture. However, if the employee desires, he/she may write a short letter to be given to those attending the meeting. The employee should give the letter to the GTL no later than ____________ to ensure its inclusion in the meeting. The letter should introduce the new name, express the employee's commitment to a good working environment, and if desired, include a short personal message about his/her transition. A letter expressing management support may also be given to those attending the meeting, if appropriate. The management letter should be given to the GTL no later than ______________ to ensure its inclusion in the meeting.

[This specifically spells out the type of disclosure that will be made to co-workers, and indicates the relationship of management and employee-in-transition to the proceedings. It is specifically a review of the Company's guidelines and expectations of workplace behavior, rather than an attempt to convince employees of the appropriateness of the employee's choices. ]

9. Complaint Procedures

Any employee concerns or complaints about gender transition, including those of the employee in transition, co-workers, managers, vendors, customers or others, are to be referred to the GTL, not to the employee in transition. If complaints or concerns are voiced to the employee in transition, the employee should refer the person to the GTL, and notify the GTL.

When concerns or complaints about gender transition are raised to the GTL, the GTL will speak to those concerned to provide guidance regarding the Company's policy. The matter may also be referred through the usual Company grievance procedures.

[This section attempts to avoid referring grievances to the usual grievance officer or committee because failure to understand transgender issues may result in increasing tensions, rather than reducing them. However, it is important to recognize, as in the last sentence, that some matters, such as harassment claims, may have to be referred to the usual officer or commitee for legal reasons.]

10. Deviations from Plan

Deviation from the terms of this transition plan may constitute grounds for corrective action by Company to ensure that the plan is adhered to in the future.

[It is important to alert the parties to the fact that the Company will uphold the plan.]

11. Amendment of Plan

If the employee or the manager feels that the transition plan needs to be changed in order to constitute a reasonable accommodation, the request is to be made to the GTL. The request should be in writing, and specifically state the change requested and evidence supporting a significant need for the change. Within a reasonable period of time, the GTL will contact the employee and supervisory management to discuss the change, and issue a written decision granting or denying the request.

[It is important to alert the parties to the procedure by which the plan is to be changed. Otherwise, one or both parties will take it upon themselves, when circumstances change (as they inevitably will), to make changes that affect the organization negatively.

12. Change of Location

If the employee is notified that he or she or she will be reassigned to another Company location, permanently or temporarily, the employee should notify the GTL as soon as possible.

[While this could have been included in 11 above, the importance of this should be emphasized, as this circumstance can more easily lead to lawsuits.]

13. Ending Date

This plan will be terminate one year from the date listed in section 1, unless the GTL determines, in his or her sole discretion, that circumstances require continuing it for a specific period of time to address problems or concerns that have arisen. The employee and supervisory management shall be notified in writing of the time of extension and the reason.

[It is not good organizational practice to create a plan that lasts forever, particularly where it is intended to address circumstances that are relatively short-lived.]

No comments: