Transforming Human Rights Practice – Transgender Policies on the Rise

Increasing recognition of the rights of transgendered persons is driving a significant amount of human rights legislation in both Canada and the United States. The term “transgender” is usually used to describe persons whose internal experience of their gender is different than the gender they were assigned at birth.

In 2012, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Ontario all added “gender identity” as a protected ground in their human rights codes. While transgendered persons in those provinces have been protected for some time under other grounds, their protection is now explicit. There is also legislation before the federal government which includes similar protection. In British Columbia, transgender persons are protected, but not explicitly. It is likely only a matter of time until that changes.

In order to ensure we are able to advise our clients in B.C. on best practices in this newly evolving landscape, I recently attended the Transgender Law Institute in San Francisco, California. Topics of note included:

  • workplace rights and obligations,
  • access to health care, and
  • the inclusion of transgender persons in sport.

Hundreds of incredibly successful American corporations have enacted policies to protect transgender people in their workplace and are finding that such policies have been good for their business: Wells Fargo, Xerox, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Apple, Ford Motor, Dow Chemical, and American Express.

It was a unique privilege to participate in the TLI and to hear about developments in the U.S. by the persons most affected by them. These people included real estate and corporate lawyers, an elected trial judge, an appointed judge, and an ex-Navy SEAL, all of whom are transgendered.

If you have questions about how your workplace might handle an employee’s transition or if someone in your workplace expresses an interest in transitioning on the job, please don’t hesitate to contact us.