A publication released last month by the D.C. Office of Human Rights reminds employers that deliberately misusing a transgender employee’s preferred name or gender-related pronoun violates the city’s Human Rights Law.
OHR spokesperson Stephanie Franklin said the publication, “Valuing Transgender Applicants & Employees: A Best Practices Guide for Employers,” was produced jointly by OHR and the National LGBTQ Task Force.
The publication notes that the city’s Human Rights Act of 1977 was amended in 2006 to ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression in the areas of employment, housing, public accommodations and educational institutions. Regulations were subsequently adopted, the publication says, that prohibit workplace harassment or a hostile work environment for trans employees.
“The following behaviors by supervisors or coworkers may be considered unlawful harassment or a hostile work environment,” the publication says:
• Deliberately misusing a person’s preferred name or pronoun;
• Asking personal questions about an individual’s body, gender identity or expression or transition;
• Causing distress to an individual by outing a transgender person against their will;
• Posting offensive pictures or sending offensive communications.
Franklin said that under the Human Rights Act, a transgender employee who believes they are being subjected to discriminatory workplace actions must file a complaint with OHR, which would investigate the complaint. If probable cause is found, OHR sends the complaint to the D.C. Commission on Human Rights, which issues a ruling on whether discrimination occurred.
If found to be at fault, an employer could be required under the law to pay compensatory damages, civil penalties, attorney’s fees, and back pay if an employee was unable to continue to work due to a hostile work environment.
A copy of the publication can be obtained free of charge from OHR at: http://ohr.dc.gov/page/transemployees.