Developing a workplace transition plan
This guide walks through important questions and best practices for employers who wish to support employees who decide to transition and come out at work. Such a guide is recommended as a best practice by the Transgender Law Center as well as a number of human resources and diversity, equity, and inclusion organizations.
Guidelines for the Employer
- Emphasize support of employees and their transitions
- Review relevant nondiscrimination policies (link to other guide here)
- Advise coworkers about affirming employees and their transitions
- Model correct use of transitioning employees’ name and pronouns in all communications
- All processes should be developed with participation and consent of transitioning employees
Questions for the Employer
- Who is the transitioning employee’s point of contact? Someone in HR? Elsewhere?
- Who will be involved in implementing an employee’s transition plan? This should include the employee, the employee’s direct supervisor, an HR representative, and anyone else who will be involved (per employee’s comfort and permission).
- Who, if anyone, would have access to records or information containing former names and legal names? Employees should be made aware of this.
- Does the newsroom owner have relevant policies and procedures that guide or constrain the newsroom’s policies? This may be relevant if the newsroom is owned by a university or larger media conglomerate.
- How familiar are points of contact expected to be with newsroom policies around transgender issues? How will they be trained, and how will they stay informed after initial trainings?
- How will employees know about newsroom policies related to transgender status?
- This includes but is not limited to policies regarding bathroom use, employment rights, and how to report harassment or discrimination. It also includes transgender health care coverage in newsroom medical plans.
- Who does the employee need to meet with? Most employees will likely need to consult their immediate supervisor after discussing social transition plans with HR or another primary point person. An employee may desire a larger meeting to inform others of their transition.
- What records need to be updated for employees? How and when will those changes be made? Can they be made?
- Consider headshots, newsroom email ID, online display names, press badges, name plates, HR logins, and bylines. If the newsroom is affiliated with a larger conglomerate, there may be systems that can’t be changed without a formal request to a technology department.
- Employers should ensure all name changes, photographs, and other documents are updated in advance of any announcement, unless the employee prefers a different timeline.
- What sort of social, medical, and disability leave are available to transitioning employees? Who will communicate with the employee about any relevant leave programs and how to qualify? These programs vary by state laws and by workplace.
- Who will notify management of the employee’s transition so that newsroom leaders can model appropriate pronouns, names and behavior?
- What training will be given to coworkers?
- How will management respond to coworkers or colleagues disrespecting employees based on their transgender status? How will management respond to colleagues who refuse to use the appropriate names and pronouns for transitioning employees? How will employees be made aware of relevant anti-harassment and nondiscrimination laws?
- How will management respond to harassment or discrimination against transgender employees originating from outside the newsroom? Do existing newsroom policies include transgender reporters when stipulating how to handle harassment at events, while reporting, or on social media?
Questions for the Employee
- When will the social transition in the office formally occur? This means the date that the employee will change their name and pronouns. They may also start using a different restroom/locker room, if they have not already been using the facilities most appropriate for their gender identity.
- How and in what format should coworkers be made aware of someone’s new name and pronouns, if relevant?
- Would they prefer to announce new names and pronouns to relevant coworkers or communicate the information one-on-one?
- Would they prefer to announce new names and pronouns themselves or have a supervisor communicate relevant information in a meeting or via email?
First published June 2020; last updated June 2023
Trans-friendly workplace policies
- Have a workplace write anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policy that explicitly include sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression as protected categories.
- Have clear policies that outline expected behavior and protocol concerning the categories below.
- Keep a Workplace Transition Plan that follows best practices.
- Maintain a list of contacts who can answer questions related to the Workplace Transition Plan, records, and internal policies.
- Introduce all workplace policies to every employee as part of onboarding.
- Employers should provide and encourage consistent workplace education on transgender issues, regardless of whether a workplace contains any out transgender employees. This will improve coverage of transgender issues as well as foster an environment where transgender employees feel safe.
- Whenever possible, this education should come from professional organizations that provide in-person, full-workplace training. Mandatory online programs are also acceptable if bringing in trained professionals is not feasible.
- If necessary, additional education should be provided when transgender employees enter the workplace. However, general education already provided to employees should cover any topics that would become relevant upon an out transgender employee entering the workplace.
- LGBTQ and other underrepresented employees should not be asked to provide workplace education to their coworkers.
LGBTQ issues coverage
- LGBTQ and other under-represented employees should not be expected to provide editorial guidance or sensitivity reads outside of the scope of their typical work.
- LGBTQ employees should not be taken off any story on LGBTQ issues because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. That said, LGBTQ employees should not be automatically assigned stories on LGBTQ issues solely because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, if that is not what they were hired to cover.
- Employees have a right to decide whether and when to disclose and discuss their gender and identity.
- Management, human resources, and other colleagues should not disclose or discuss an employee’s transgender status without obtaining prior consent.
- Disclosing an employee’s transgender status can constitute a violation of medical privacy laws, such as HIPAA.
- All records should reflect an employee’s chosen name, rather than legal name, even if they have not changed their legal name—unless required by outside institutions (such as by payroll and bank records).
Names and pronouns
- Persistent misuse or refusal to use correct names and pronouns can legally constitute harassment; this should be noted in workplace anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies.
Bylines and email signatures
- Newsrooms should update past and future bylines for transgender employees without requiring documentation. This is a matter of both accuracy and safety, as the easy availability of trans journalists’ past bylines facilitates harassment.
- In newsrooms that use CMS systems that share stories between multiple partner sites, old bylines and user profiles may appear on other sites for which the employer does not have edit access. Appoint a manager or human resources employee to contact other outlets to request byline and profile updates for transgender employees.
- Do not require employees to disclose pronouns in places such as email signatures, business cards, or social accounts. Instead, provide all employees with a newsroom-wide, consistent format for voluntarily including pronouns in relevant venues. Encourage cisgender employees to participate.
Outside harassment policies
- All newsrooms should have policies and procedures for dealing with harassment directed toward reporters by readers. These policies should cover in-person, in-the-field incidents of harassment as well as online harassment. Those policies should specifically include trans journalists.
- The Online Harassment Field Manual outlines best practices for general policies.
Sex-segregated job assignments and workplace events
- Employees should be classified according to their lived gender, not assigned sex at birth.
- Do not make assumptions about whether a transgender employee would be comfortable or uncomfortable attending and reporting on an event or community that separates groups by gender. Consult the employee.
Restrooms and locker rooms
- It is best practice to have single-use, gender-neutral restrooms available to all employees.
- Transgender employees should not be denied access to common restrooms or restricted to a single-use restroom.
- Transgender employees should be allowed to use any restrooms and locker rooms that best correspond to their gender.
- It is best practice to have a dress code that does not restrict manner of dress based on gender and identity.
- Transgender employees have the right to follow the dress code most appropriate to their gender or gender expression.
- Employers should seek employee medical insurance plans that include and cover transgender health care.
- Transition-related care should be eligible for any workplace medical leave plans, both individual and state-mandated.
First published June 2020; last updated June 2023