Transgender jobseekers face barriers to employment

Ontario-based advocates say discrimination is rife in every stage of the employment process – so how exactly should HR help?

Transgender jobseekers face barriers to employment
Ontario-based advocates are calling on employers to bolster opportunities for transgender people after research revealed discrimination is rife, particularly in the recruitment process.

"It's much harder to get a job than to keep a job," said local activist Cole Gately. "It's very, very easy to hire someone who isn't going to make people feel uncomfortable or isn't going to challenge anyone."

In a recent survey of 433 transgender people, almost a third (32 per cent) suspected they had been turned down from a job because of their gender while 18 per cent said they were absolutely certain of the same.

While some employers may have reservations, Gately said they would reap the rewards if they offered additional support to transgender jobseekers.

“When you show that you are an equitable employer and you're actively seeking marginalized communities to work with you, that speaks volumes," he told the news outlet.

McInnes Cooper associate Ryan Baxter says it’s equally important to offer comprehensive support to employees who decide to transition while working at the company.

“Transgender employees face many challenges in the workplace – not the least of which are vulnerability to and fear of discrimination,” he said.

“But there are many ways in which an employer can support its trans employees while meeting its legal obligations to all of its employees,” he added.

Baxter outlined five key areas that employers should consider when supporting a transgender employee:

Educate yourself on the basics

“An employer doesn’t need to know everything about the LGBTQ community but it should have a basic understanding of terminology and of the big picture,” he said.

Know your legal obligations

“Differential treatment of an employee in the workplace because of the employee’s biological gender, or because of attributes associated with their gender – regardless of their transition status – constitutes discrimination and is prohibited by law,” warns Baxter.

Implement an LGBT policy

“One of the most important things an employer can do to support trans employees in the workplace is to implement LGBTQ policies and provide visible support,” says Halifax-based Baxter.

“Employers should also update their employee orientation programs on discrimination and harassment to include gender identity and LGBTQ policies, and review all existing workplace policies to ensure they are gender-neutral,” he added.

Coordinate workplace communications

“One of the most crucial ways an employer can support an LGBTQ employee through transition is by communicating to other employees in the mutual workplace,” reveals Baxter.

“When an employee is transitioning, a message of support from senior management addressed to co-workers, and specifically those who work in direct contact with the transitioning employee, announcing the employee’s plan to transition, communicating its values and relevant policies promotes a diverse and harassment-free workplace and can set a positive tone about the transitioning employee.”

Address employee concerns

“Other employees may express discomfort with a co-worker’s transition,” acknowledges Baxter. “This sense of discomfort is natural and may be attributed to a lack of education, grief surrounding the loss of an existing relationship, uncertainty surrounding the future relationship or religious beliefs.

“Regardless of the source of the discomfort, it’s important for the employer to address the transitioning employee’s co-workers’ feelings and concerns through education and discussion.”
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