Fostering A Non-Binary Inclusive Workplace
This blog is Part 2 of a two-part series on Non-Binary Employees and the Workplace. The first article is intended to be an introduction to the terms employers should be familiar with based on recent US Supreme Court cases. This article is intended to walk employers through some of the challenges they may face, as well as solutions to consider, to honor gender diversity.
The importance of exercising non-binary inclusion
Millennials currently constitute over one-third of the U.S. Workforce and Generation Z will soon surpass Millennials as the most populous generation on earth, with more than one-third of the world’s population counting themselves as Gen Zers. These two gender-diverse generations will quickly be making up the majority of the workforce. While legal protections related to non-binary individuals in the workplace are not yet firmly established nationwide, more and more states are enacting legislation to expand and protect non-binary individuals; including requiring things like adding gender-neutral bathrooms or revising documentation to include a larger range of gender identities. This trend is likely to continue, making it important for employers to begin to consider and implement practices to create an inclusive, welcoming environment that is respectful of all gender identities and forms of gender expression.
Implementing non-binary inclusionary language as an employer
Using gender-neutral and gender inclusive language and integrating pronouns are ways to begin to exercise non-binary inclusion. A simple place to start is changing the way you greet people since it is such a common form of conversation. Consider replacing statements like “ladies and gentlemen” or “you guys;” with “everyone,” or “all of you.”
Next consider your written policies, handbooks and forms. You can reword documents to avoid using pronouns all together or replace pronouns like “he” or “she” with “they” or “their” to be more inclusive of other gender identities. The focus on pronouns goes beyond “he” or “she”. References to “mother” or “father” can be replaced with “parent”, “Brother” or “Sister” can be replaced with “sibling”, and so on.
Do any of your onboarding or other forms require an employee to select a gender? Consider updating your forms to allow for options beyond male and female, or even leave it blank for the employee to fill out.
Policy updates to protect from discrimination claims
Many companies like to adhere to a strict dress code and commonly, the policy is expressed using gendered language. Rather than enforce specific attire, consider emphasizing the importance of dressing professionally and functionally for their industry and position. Simple changes can be made to dress code policies to become more inclusive, such as eliminating the use of male and female categorization, for example, “pant suits for men” and “a skirt and blouse for females.” An alternative to the latter examples could include, “please wear business professional clothes, that you feel comfortable in, such as…” According to the EEOC, prohibiting a transgender person from dressing or presenting consistent with that person’s gender identity would constitute sex discrimination.
Gendered restrooms laws are becoming more prevalent, and, in some counties, they have already been adopted. The 2021 expansion of the Illinois Human Rights Act provides that all individuals have the right to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity and that employers are prohibited from restricting or questioning an employer’s use of a bathroom. The Equitable Restrooms Act states that any single-occupancy restroom that is in a place of public accommodation may not have gender specific language on signage. If your company works in an office complex, and although there may not be any flexibility if you rent your office space, consider advocating for single-occupancy restroom signage to be correctly labeled. Changing signage is a simple way to accommodate the dynamic and expanding demographic of the workplace and to avoid discrimination and harassment lawsuits.
The approaches listed above are all great starting places to jumpstart having a more inclusive workplace. Consider receiving feedback from your employees, and more specifically your non-binary and LGBTQ staff to understand where there are improvements to be made and what is working as it is! This can be done through one-on-one meetings, employee town halls, or anonymous surveys. By asking for feedback, you may become aware of laws that have been changed and the updates that will need to follow. It also gives you an opportunity to resolve any conflict before legal action is taken.
Education on allyship within your business
It is the job of the company to ensure that their practices are adhering to federal and local laws to ensure an equitable and inclusionary workplace. Consider adding a training program that is provided for all employees proactively so that the expectation is set prior to a potential incident occurring. At minimum, every business in Illinois is required by law to provide annual sexual harassment prevention training to all employees. Included in this training, remind your employees and administration that things such as the intentional use of incorrect pronouns and inquiries into medical history, gender identity, etc. May all be considered sexual harassment.
Check out the Illinois state and specific county legislation to confirm that your company is adhering to and preparing for the laws and guidelines set forth to foster an inclusive, equitable workplace.
Should you have any questions about workplace inclusivity practices for your business, or would like to schedule a free initial consultation, contact Navigant Law Group, LLC at (847) 253-8800 or contact us online!
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