The Biden administration’s top human resources office told federal agencies on Friday to establish policies that explain how federal workers will be allowed to transition to another gender in the workplace in ways that guarantee their privacy support.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released updated guidance on “gender identity and inclusion in the federal workplace,” which had not been changed since the end of the Obama administration in 2017. The new guidance was released on International Transgender Day of Visibility.
The old OPM guidance told federal agencies to treat gender transitions with “sensitivity and confidentiality,” and offered other general advice on how to handle transitions. The new guidance asks agencies to go further by setting internal policies and procedures on how to handle transitions, and to “support transitioning employees” consistent with the broad goals laid out by OPM.
According to OPM, agency policies should explain the “type of support a transitioning employee can expect from supervisors, managers, human resources personnel, and agency employee support services,” including access to employee assistance programs.
Agency rules should list a federal human resources official who can support transitioning employees.
OPM also said agency rules should set out a procedure by which gender transitions will be reflected in the workplace. “The procedure would include, with the transitioning employee’s input and consent, when and which colleagues to notify of a transition; the timing for name changes and pronoun changes, where applicable and consistent with this Guidance, in email, IT systems, and employee profiles; and a process for any gender identity inclusion training for supervisors, managers, and coworkers if such training would be beneficial,” OPM said.
According to OPM guidance, federal agencies are to make their gender transition policies available to everyone and to allow the use of sick leave for transitioning workers if they are receiving medical treatment during their transition, “just as with medical treatment for any other reason.”
The guidance says more broadly that employees should have “control, to the extent possible, over when, with whom, and how much they share about their gender identity or sex characteristics. It says employees should be addressed by the names and pronouns that they use to describe themselves, and says agencies should use “correct names and pronouns” to avoid discrimination.
“The isolated and inadvertent use of an incorrect name or pronoun will generally not constitute unlawful harassment, but, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has explained, continued intentional use of an incorrect name or pronoun (or both) could, in certain circumstances, contribute to an unlawful hostile work environment,” it said.
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