Ep 28 – When to Use Transgender Employees Names at Work

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Ep 28 – When to Use Transgender Employees Names at Work

As HR leaders it is our responsibility to make our workplaces inclusive, diverse, and as safe as possible for all employees. This means creating a workplace culture and experience that allows for all employees to feel respected and comfortable in their environments. I believe that includes all members of the LGBTQ communities.

Recently I came across a story from Mastercard where customers who are transgendered will be allowed to have a credit card with their chosen names. Personally, I think this is fantastic, but I wondered about employers and what this means for our workplaces. Not sure where I’m going with this? You will in a few.

How many employees are transgender? Well, this is not a question that has been researched or polled very heavily for a lot of reasons and I think that people haven’t been forthcoming because of the amount of stigma and people who feel unsafe from others when openly sharing if they are transgendered. Washington Post published results from a report of high school students earlier this year with 2% of them identifying as transgender. I think it’s safe to assume that these numbers likely mirror or are similar to our workforce populations.

If Mastercard is allowing for transgender customers to add their chosen names, is this something we are doing in our workplaces and what about employee benefits?

Today’s featured article comes from Ad Age and is titled, “Mastercard Will Allow Transgender Customers to Use Their Chosen Names on Credit and Debit Cards.”

SHRM published a resource article earlier this year titled, “Gender Identity: How Should an Employer Handle a Transgender Employee’s Request for a Name Change?” I’ll link to the article which I believe is available to SHRM members only, but I’ll read you the author’s recommendations on how and if we should handle name change requests from transgender employees.

The author isn’t listed on this piece as it is part of their “Toolkits” section of the website, but I quote,

Employers should handle a name change request from a transgender employee the same way they handle any employee’s name change request. Anyone can legally change his or her name (assuming it is not for fraudulent reasons), choose to go by a nickname or use an “English name” if his or her name is difficult to pronounce. However, there are compliance and practical considerations that dictate how employers should handle such situations.

The Internal Revenue Service requires the name on an employee’s W-2 form to match the name on his or her Social Security card. These records can be changed when the employee has completed a legal name change. Until then, a note referencing the more commonly used name can be placed with payroll records for internal purposes.

While we, as employers might not be able to change an employer’s legal name on their benefits documentation and employee paperwork, we can make policy and practice for allowing for employees to change their names for use on things like company email, employee directories, and recognition walls and intranet pages. Mastercard is leading the way and setting the example here, and I believe is something we, as organizational culture and inclusion champions, should follow suit.

These might seem as small changes, but to the individual, they are big gestures to helping all our employees feel welcome at our workplaces especially when you consider that nearly 30% of adolescents who identify are transgender have attempted suicide. This small gesture is not just about inclusion and respect but also about supporting mental health and wellness too.

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Featured Story

Mastercard Will Allow Transgender Customers to Use their Chosen Name on Cards

More Great Resource

Ep 155 – Driving Organizational Change: Rebuilding Trust and Culture

Available to SHRM members only: Resources & Tools

CDC: Nearly 2 percent of high school students identify as transgender — and more than one-third of them attempt suicide

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.


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