Union Develops Guide to Create Safe, Inclusive Workplaces

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Union Develops Guide to Create Safe, Inclusive Workplaces

New policy features support for transgender employees in transition

The challenges facing transgender people on the job are varied and often misunderstood. Stemming from employees’ experiences and the desire for guidance on how to help them navigate the transition process in the workplace, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) developed a sample policy to address these critical issues.

Through its Women’s and Fair Practices departments, AFGE worked with the Transgender Law Center to draft guidance that local chapters can use to ensure that their worksites are inclusive and safe for transgender, gender non-conforming, and transitioning employees.

The model policy was first distributed at AFGE’s LGBT Pride Meeting, during its 2014 Legislative Conference (visit www.afge.org for details). AFGE Attorney Franklyn Fragomene worked on the policy, which includes definitions, specific policies and procedures, and a sample workplace transition plan.

Fragomene specializes in cases related to equal employment opportunity for workers at the federal level and described working on this policy for transgender workers as “a unique opportunity for organized labor to positively impact the way marginalized groups are represented on the job.”

“With this guidance, we hope to help union members and government agency managers use the appropriate language as a basis to have these conversations and create an environment where all workers feel safe and respected,” said Fragomene.

“As a union that prides itself on advocating for the rights of workers, it was high time that we put this guidance together,” added AFGE National Vice President for Women’s and Fair Practices Augusta Y. Thomas.

Workplace protections for LGBT workers have been brought to the forefront in government agencies and state legislatures. In late February, the D.C. government announced that public and private health insurance plans regulated by the D.C. government would be required to cover transition-related care. This includes plans such as Medicaid, D.C. government employee insurance, and private plans sold on the District’s health exchange.

In March, Maryland passed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, a gender identity bill that prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, credit, and public accommodations based on one’s gender identity or expression. On Capitol Hill, House Democrats sent a letter to Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, asking that more be done to address the “high rates of unemployment and discrimination faced by LGBT workers around the country.”

AFGE continues to expand its LGBT Pride Program, focusing on issues facing LGBT workers.

Chelsea Bland is a Communications Specialist at the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). AFGE is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.