Coming out to employers can be equally difficult as gender identity and expression (as well as sexual orientation) is not a protected by any federal employment laws. Some states have extended these protections, however they are the exception not the rule. Since coming out often leads to financial vulnerability, it is important to be sure that your transition will not effect your employment.
Here are some tips to navigating coming out at work:
- Know Your Rights: While you are not protected explicitly by federal law, you may be able to file a complaint of employment discrimination with the EEOC which has determined that gender identity is covered under Title VII (Note. It is unclear if the EEOC will continue to do so during the Trump Administration). Additionally, you may live in a state where you are explicitly protected from employment discrimination, so be sure to know this going into your meeting with HR.
- Know Your Company Policies: The majority of Fortune 500 and Fortune 10 companies have policies protecting their LGBTQ+ employees. Check to see if your employer is listed. If you work for a smaller corporation or a private corporation, all you need to do is ask your HR department for a copy of their non-discrimination policy.
- Know Your Allies: Coming out to your employer and supervisor is only half the struggle. The other half is coming out to the people who you work with. Similar to coming out to family and friends, it would be helpful to make a list of who you know will support you, who will not, and who you are unsure about.
- Know Your Resources: Visit Transgender Law Center for advice and assistance in coming out at work.
- Be Strategic: If you are unsure about what will happen when you come out at work, start to look for alternate employment options. Even if you can take a discrimination case to court, you will need to be able to support yourself. Start your job search using the list of companies which do actively protect their LGBTQ+ employees.
- Help Your Employer and Co-workers in Their Transition with You: It may be difficult for many people to make name/pronoun adjustments. Unless you expect misgendering/misnaming is intentional, you should approach these mistakes with compassion and understanding. Doing so will help assist your transition in the workplace. Transgender Law Center has excellent guides to aid your coworkers in making the transition with you, as well as employer resources.