The recent Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQ discrimination presents an opportunity for companies to review and update their employee handbook and policies. Pertinent sections for updates include discrimination and harassment, complaint procedures, and dress code. Additionally, employers might consider adding a pronoun section and reviewing health insurance or other benefit sections.
Explicitly Note Characteristics
In its June 15 decision on Bostick v Clayton County, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII protection also applies to sexual preference and gender identity, and discrimination based on such is illegal. As a result of that decision, any anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies should be updated to specifically include sexual orientation and gender identity and note that bias or harassment based on them is prohibited just as it has been for age, sex, religion, race and other protected classes.
Anti-discrimination and anti-harrassment sections should include a portion on how employees handle these complaints. Offer employees more than one avenue for filing a complaint in case a supervisor, for example, is causing the problem. Note that the process is confidential and the company will work to keep it so.
No Gender-Specific Dress Requirements
While the days of requiring women to wear pantyhose and for men to wear ties are over, many companies still maintain a dress code policy to ensure decorum and a certain level of professionalism. Due to the recent Supreme Court ruling, any attire-related policies that could be construed as gender stereotyping should be reviewed and updated. Keeping corporate policy as gender-free and generic as possible is best. If the dress code specifies a specific item of clothing as permissible, avoid attaching a gender to the description.
The Supreme Court’s decision did not specifically address dress codes, but one that prohibits an employee from presenting in their preferred gender could lead to problems.
Few employee handbooks currently include a section on correct pronoun usage, but now might be the time to consider this. Employers should work to create a safe and inclusive environment for all employees, and for transgender or transitioning workers that might mean creating a pronoun section in the employee handbook.
Consider how an employee wants to be addressed. If a supervisor or other employee slips up and uses the wrong pronoun or name, that can be forgiven. But if someone consistently and intentionally uses the wrong pronoun to address an employee with the intent of creating a hostile situation, that could become a problem for the employer. Addressing these issues upfront with a policy might be a good idea.
Most legal forms only allow for a choice between male and female, but for internal corporate forms consider a binary option. For websites and other corporate communications, look at a different policy where employees use their chosen name and gender.
Health Insurance and Other Benefits
While the Supreme Court’s decision specifically discussed hiring and firing and did not address benefits, Title VII does cover equal access to employer-sponsored health plans. If your company is reviewing this, make sure the handbook is updated for any changes. Areas under review are coverage for same-sex or domestic partners as well as transition surgery and medical procedures for transgender employees.
Sign and Date It
Once the company policies have been reviewed and the handbook is finalized, provide a copy to employees and consider having them sign an acknowledgement that they have read and understand them. Then file the acknowledgement in the employee’s file.
Employee Handbook Experts
Before making any changes to your employee policies or handbook, have them reviewed by an attorney. The experienced attorneys at InPrime Legal can help you update your handbook for the Supreme Court’s LGBTQ decision as well as any issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Contact us at 770-282-8967.