Gender Identity Discrimination in the Workplace
In Ontario today, organizations bear a significant responsibility to foster inclusive work environments that prioritize the rights and dignity of individuals – including their gender identity.
What is Gender Identity?
Gender identity is an individual’s deeply-felt sense of their own gender, which may or may not align with their sex assigned at birth. It is essential to recognize and respect the diversity of gender expressions, moving beyond the traditional binary understanding of gender.
In Ontario, the Human Rights Code (Code) prohibits discrimination based on gender expression and gender identity. Employers must respect individuals with different identities of gender equally, and accommodate them.
In Canada, there are similar safeguards under the Canadian Human Rights Act (Act), which applies to federally-regulated employees.
This article will discuss best practices for employers to try and prevent gender identity discrimination in the workplace.
Develop Gender Identity Affirming Policies
Discrimination based on gender identity in the workplace violates an employee’s human rights. It also has an adverse effect on corporate culture, productivity, and employee well-being.
Developing comprehensive and inclusive policies that explicitly address expression of gender and protect employees from discrimination is crucial in the workplace. For example, employers can implement:
- Discrimination and anti-harassment policies that encompass gender identity;
- Clear guidelines on the use of preferred names and pronouns;
- Gender-neutral dress codes and grooming policies; and
- Access to gender-neutral facilities.
Employers also have an obligation to respect prospective employees’ gender identity throughout the hiring process.
In addition, once employees have been hired, employers should ensure that it is clear that one’s gender identity will not be a barrier to growth within the organization. To that end, businesses should establish practices that ensure the recruitment, hiring, and promotion processes are fair, transparent, and inclusive – considering qualifications and skills rather than gender identity.
An experienced human rights lawyer can help assist in identifying gender-related discrimination and advise regarding available legal options available.
Training and Educating in the Workplace
Diversity and inclusion training for employees can help to develop a respectful workplace culture. This training should be provided to employees, supervisors, and managers to promote understanding and the adoption of inclusive practices. The training should cover various topics, including educating participants on identities of gender.
Training should include relevant terminology and concepts, enabling employees to better understand and appreciate the diversity within the gender spectrum. Additionally, the training should focus on challenging biases, stereotypes, and unconscious biases that may influence attitudes and behaviours towards individuals with different identities of gender.
This training could prevent potential workplace harassment that may target an employee’s gender-identity.
The Need To Create Support Systems for Gender Identity
Creating support networks and employee resource groups (ERGs) within the workplace is a powerful way to foster inclusivity and support employees with diverse expressions of gender.
These networks can serve as essential platforms for individuals to access information, seek guidance, and find a sense of community. By establishing such networks, employers demonstrate their commitment to providing a safe and supportive environment for all employees.
To raise awareness and inform employees about gender identity-related issues, employers can provide useful resources like instructional materials, workshops, and speakers from the community.
Additionally, networks offer a secure environment where staff members may openly express their experiences, difficulties, and concerns while feeling supported by their peers. These support systems can allow individuals the chance to meet people, create a sense of community, and gain access to the tools they need to advance professionally.
Gender identity is a protected ground under the Code and the Act, and employees have a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of their gender expression.
Employers should adhere to relevant legislation and implement anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. A workplace can also provide additional education and training to their employees.”
Employers should aim to provide a supportive environment, which promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion.