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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.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Model letter from management

In my last few posts, I have been discussing the agenda for a meeting with co-workers of a transgender employee. As noted there, the meeting should be carefully thought out to insure that co-workers learn what management expects of them. My last post discussed
a letter from the transgender employee in transition. This time, I will discuss a letter from management expressing support for the employee in transition.

The gender transition leader, the HR person who is placed in charge of a gender transition, should solicit a short letter from management expressing management support. Most likely, management is going to ask HR to draft the letter, since they expect that HR knows what to say more than they do. Of course, there is no reason why HR should be an expert on the subject, but that's what managers often do. What should such a letter say?

First, the letter should reference the Company's Equal Opportunity Policy, and express management's commitment to non-discrimination, and a harassment-free work environment for all. That grounds the management response firmly in company policy, rather than the manager's personal response, which may well be different. Since an important purpose of the co-worker meeting is to avoid destructive gossip, it would also be well to mention management's commitment to maximizing workplace harmony and express support of the employee in transition. This also puts potential bullies on notice that harassment of a vulnerable employee, often disguised as moral objection, will not be tolerated. It also gives an avenue for guidance of those co-workers who legitimately have questions and concerns about working alongside a transgender employee. That avenue is the GTL, for it is important that the transgender employee not be barraged with curious questioners.

A model of a management letter is provided below. The content of the letter should be changed as appropriate to fit the particular situation and the writer's individual style.



We are writing this to notify you of a change regarding one of our team members in the _______ department. Although this change is of a personal nature, it is one that will be visible to you. Consequently, we feel that it is important to let you know about the change and any possible impact it may have.

One of our valued team members, __________, will be continuing a personal transition that began some years ago. Beginning on __________, he/she will be taking a major step in a gender transition and will begin living full-time as a man/woman. He/She _______ has adopted the name __________.

We realize that this may come as a surprise to some people and anticipate that a variety of personal reactions may surface as this change occurs. For that reason, we felt that it would be beneficial to our employees to have an opportunity to learn about the Company's guidelines regarding gender transition and ask any questions they may have.

We reiterate The Company's support for all our employees and their diverse personal lives, as well as The Company's commitment to employee diversity. As always, our responsibility is to ensure a safe and healthy working environment where employees of diverse backgrounds and beliefs can work free of harassment, intimidation, or discrimination.

Please treat ____________, with respect, using correct references to name or pronoun of the new gender, refraining from asking inappropriate questions or making inappropriate comments, and respecting employee confidentiality. Particularly at the beginning of gender transition, it is common for co-workers to make some mistakes regarding these matters. Do not take offense at respectful corrections offered by the employee in transition.

If you are interested in learning more about the issues involved in gender transition in the workplace, here are some resources for your consideration. These are provided for informational purposes only, and the Company does not endorse the opinions expresses therein.

The Human Rights Campaign has a section on transgender issues in the workplace at http://hrc.org/worklife

Brown and Rounsley, True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism -- For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals (Jossey-Bass 2003) 288 pages. This book, written by psychologists in the field, uses real life stories, actual letters and other examples to give an understanding of what it means to be transgender and offers practical suggestions for compassionate dealing.

This book, written by a counselor/activist, gives information on the basics of transgender issues, the process of gender transition at work and co-worker issues. Walworth, Working with a Transsexual: A Guide for Coworkers (Center for Gender Sanity 2003) 135 pages

Your Company management along with Human Resources is working to support ___________ during this transition period and in the performance of her job and ask that you do the same. To minimize disruption to our colleague, we ask that you address any questions or concerns about this subject to ___________ , our local Diversity Manager.

Thank you for your understanding and consideration in keeping Company a productive and safe working environment for employees of diverse personal backgrounds.

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