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Lawyers, take a moment to be proud of your profession. For the past several years, law firms have ranked highest on the Human Rights Campaign's "Corporate Equality Index."
This year's report shows that law firms are, again, ahead of the curve when it comes to providing transgender employees with equal rights. While the Human Rights Campaign's numbers show an increase in the number of law firms that have transgender friendly policies, the National Association for Law Placement's 2016 report found that the number of openly LGBT attorneys rose from 2.3 percent in 2015, to 2.5 percent in 2016. Large firms, with over 700 attorneys, reported the highest percentage of openly LGBT associate attorneys at 3.8 percent, as well as LGBT partners at 2.2 percent.
Below, you'll find three important policies your firm should implement to protect the rights of transgender employees in order to attract and retain top talent, and not just from the LGBT community.
One common issue transgender individuals must face is pronoun confusion. The incorrect usage of he, she, or they, when referring to a transgender individual, can lead to feeling disrespected. Additionally, if employees refuse to use a transgender individual's preferred pronoun after being asked to do so, it could be seen as gender discrimination.
To not only avoid gender discrimination claims, but also to foster a welcoming work environment free of discriminatory animus, creating and enforcing a policy about using preferred pronouns is a good idea. For many firms, it may even be a good idea to provide some training on respecting transgender individuals by using the correct terminology during annual sexual harassment trainings.
While offering same-sex partners benefits has been a longstanding policy of many law firms and entities, many do not offer benefits packages that cover the needs of transgender individuals. One way to make your benefits more enticing to transgender individuals is to ensure coverage for specific treatments like hormone therapy or even gender reassignment.
When it comes to bathroom policies, being inclusive can be simply achieved. Though some entities may think that requiring transgender individuals to use unisex bathrooms solves the problem, it really doesn't. A transgender person should not be required to use a special "separate" bathroom. Rather, a solution would be to allow everyone access to a unisex restroom, and emphasize that if anyone has a problem with transgender employee using the restroom that their gender expression corresponds to, then the employee with the problem should use the unisex bathroom.
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