Stephanie Loughner, partner and co-chair of the firm’s employment group, recently spoke with Jensen Werley at the Denver Business Journal about creating inclusive policies for transgender and nonbinary employees.
The article, Queer is Here, was published in the June 11 edition of the Denver Business Journal, as part the Creating an Inclusive Denver Business feature story. Loughner was also quoted in the sidebar, So, You’d Like New Policies.
An excerpt from the article is below.
Queer to Stay
It’s not enough for Colorado businesses to protect employees against discrimination. Experts say that to really optimize a business, employers must craft a workplace policy that is inclusive of everyone.
There are hot topic issues like bathrooms and pronouns. But those are two items in a list of simple and small changes and employers can implement to create a culture of inclusivity.
Broadly, there are several areas where employers can make fairly easy policy changes: the employee handbook, the way records are handled, the usage of names and pronouns, dress code, facilities and health care, to name a few.
For example, when Stephanie Loughner is writing an employee handbook for a business, the lawyer takes an extra step to bullet point every protected category, including sexual orientation and transgender identities. Loughner is an attorney with Denver-based Moye White and co-chair of their employment group. She said she wants every class to get its own attention, instead of being crunched and hidden in a generic equal opportunity clause.
It’s a small step Loughner takes, but it’s an example of the way workplace policies can be meaningfully inclusive for marginalized employees.
“The more comfortable employees are in their workplace, the more efficient and effective they’ll be," Loughner said. "There is no reason to create divides based on protected categories.”
A part of forming policy can also be education and training. Employers are required to provide sexual harassment training, and gender inclusion can be included in that, Loughner said.
An employee will communicate what pronouns they use. In the recent past, pronouns might be referred to as “preferred.” That language is starting to be phased out for the understanding that pronouns aren’t a preference, according to the LGBT Resource Center at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. Rather, they’re a part of a person’s identity. Some employees might use multiple pronouns, like “she/they” or “they/he.”
“You see it more and more; it’s becoming more of a normalized practice,” said Loughner. “I would encourage employers to be inclusive and allow employees to name their pronouns.”
Sidebar: So, You’d Like New Policies?
Crafting a workplace policy that is inclusive to transgender and nonbinary employees will ultimately come down to your specific business. But experts weighed in on some considerations that can be made while rewriting policy.
Handbooks and Records
In official documentation, it’s easy to change all references from “he” or “she” to “an employee,” said Stephanie Loughner of Moye White. Loughner said she recommends all documents – applications, non-disclosure agreements, employee handbooks – remove any references to gender and use the term “employee” instead. In a similar vein, Loughner also recommends removing any checkboxes for “male” or “female” unless absolutely necessary. Health records should be kept private. It should be easy to change records like an employee’s name in any recordkeeping system.
Loughner recommends borrowing from the American with Disabilities Act when it comes to disclosing one employee’s transition to others if that’s what the employee wants to do. “It should be an interactive process,” she said. “The best practice is to have a discussion as to what is comfortable for the employee and find a comfortable fit for both so everyone is on the same page.”
Read the full article in the June 11 issue of the Denver Business Journal.
About Moye White LLP
Moye White is a full-service business law firm serving clients throughout the United States and internationally, with offices in Colorado and Georgia. The firm provides legal representation to clients in a wide variety of industries offering strategic, business-oriented counsel to public, private, and governmental clients in complex business and real estate transactions and commercial litigation matters.