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Posted May 12th, 2014 in Legal Insights

As Transgender Employees Increase, Employers Need a Gender-Neutral Dress Code

Issues surrounding transgender rights within a workplace are moving more into the mainstream as the number of transitioning individuals continues to increase. There is currently no litigation regarding dress codes, often found not violative of Title VII, but Jen Cornell, Nilan Johnson Lewis employment & labor attorney, says this area has a high risk for future litigation, and employers need to be educated and prepared. Cornell, who works with employers on the defense of sexual and racial harassment claims, says it’s important companies develop a dress code policy with a gender-neutral approach: “Employers might not know and don’t necessarily need to know if an employee is transitioning, and a gender-neutral dress code would help avoid incidents of potential discrimination.” This issue poses greater liability to employers following recent Circuit court decisions and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s April 2012 recognition that employment discrimination against an employee or applicant on the basis of the person’s gender identity constitutes as sex discrimination contained in the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Cornell says an altogether gender-neutral dress-code would be easier for employers to enforce, won’t need frequent updates, shows that the company is being proactive, and creates a comfortable environment for current and/or future transgender employees. Contact Jen Cornell at or (612) 305-7717.

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