Trans Rights In the Workplace

 

Gender Identity Discrimination & Harassment in the Workplace

For many transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) individuals, securing and maintaining employment can be exceedingly difficult. Workplace experiences often involve accusations of using the “wrong” restroom, harassment based on gender stereotypes, or denial of necessary healthcare. These discriminatory practices create a hostile environment and legal challenges for TGNC employees, exacerbating existing workplace tensions or abuse.

Facing employment challenges is particularly detrimental to TGNC individuals already navigating discrimination outside of work. If you believe you’ve experienced discrimination or harassment at work, reach out for a free consultation. Our experienced workplace discrimination attorney, Colin McHugh, is dedicated to advocating for your rights and seeking the justice you deserve.

Common Issues Transgender Employees Face At Work

Our firm understands the unique challenges transgender employees face in the workplace, including discrimination, harassment, restroom access, dress code conflicts, misgendering, healthcare exclusions, and more. We advocate for inclusive policies and legal protections to ensure fair treatment and equal opportunities for transgender individuals in employment.

Harassment and Bullying

Transgender employees may be subjected to harassment, bullying, or verbal abuse from coworkers, supervisors, or clients based on their gender identity. This mistreatment can create a hostile work environment and have detrimental effects on the individual’s mental health.

Unequal Pay & Opportunities

Transgender employees often face discrimination in hiring, promotion, and termination decisions. This discrimination can be based on biases and stereotypes related to gender identity, leading to unequal treatment and limited career advancement opportunities.

Bathroom Access

Bathroom access is a significant concern for transgender employees, as they may encounter challenges and discomfort when accessing gender-segregated restrooms that do not align with their gender identity. Discriminatory restroom policies worsen workplace exclusion and gender dysphoria.

Dress Codes

Workplace dress codes may pose difficulties for transgender employees whose gender expression differs from traditional norms. Dress code policies that enforce binary gender standards may force transgender individuals to conform to identities that do not align with their gender identity, leading to feelings of discomfort, dysphoria, and discrimination.

Pronoun and Name Usage

Using incorrect pronouns or deadnaming (using a transgender person’s birth name instead of their chosen name) can be profoundly invalidating and disrespectful for transgender employees. Misgendering and deadnaming contribute to a hostile work environment, erode trust, and undermine the individual’s sense of identity and belonging.

Healthcare Exclusions

Transgender employees may face barriers in accessing necessary healthcare benefits, including coverage for gender-affirming treatments or procedures. Exclusionary healthcare policies can significantly impact the physical and mental well-being of transgender individuals, exacerbating existing health disparities and inequalities in the workplace.

Mission

I seek justice for my clients and empower them through the law.

Happy Clients

Trans Right Employment Attorney

Colin McHugh (He/Him)

Colin McHugh, licensed to practice employment law in Washington and Oregon, is deeply committed to defending the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming employees facing workplace challenges. Discrimination in any form, including restroom access and promotion denial, is vigorously addressed. Colin conducts thorough investigations, prepares cases meticulously, and fearlessly confronts employers, large or small. Although Mr. McHugh is a solo practitioner, he is not afraid to stand up to large corporations or government entities. 

If you’re experiencing discrimination based on transgender or gender non-conforming identity, our compassionate legal team in Vancouver, Washington, is here to support you every step of the way. Let us be your legal advocate in uncovering your rights and determining the best course of action.

Admitted To Practice

  • Washington State Courts
  • Oregon State Courts
  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington
  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington
  • 9th Circuit Court of Appeals

Awards & Recognition

  • Super Lawyers 2023 WA Rising Stars List
  • Super Lawyers 2022 WA Rising Stars List
  • Super Lawyers 2021 WA Rising Stars List
  • Accomplished & Under 40 Award 2021 – Vancouver Business Journal
  • Super Lawyers 2020 WA Rising Stars List

Paralegal

Taylor Yerroeck (She/Her)

With 7+ years in law, Taylor Yerroeck specializes in employment law and sexual harassment cases, actively managing all case aspects to ensure effective resolution and client support.

Office Support Dog

Foxy McHugh

Foxy McHugh is the office support animal, trained for mediations and client meetings. Foxy is available for meetings upon request, providing quiet support and snuggles.

Paralegal

Taylor Yerroeck (She/Her)

Office Support Dog

Foxy McHugh

With 7+ years in law, Taylor Yerroeck specializes in employment law and sexual harassment cases, actively managing all case aspects to ensure effective resolution and client support.

Foxy McHugh is the office support animal, trained for mediations and client meetings. Foxy is available for meetings upon request, providing quiet support and snuggles.

Attorney Colin McHugh has been an extraordinary guide through my legal journey with him. He is distinguished as the best lawyer I’ve ever consulted for legal counsel. His readiness and strategic planning, blended with imbued persuasiveness, are absolutely unparalleled. The level of his dedication, strategic planning, and impactful legal suggestions certainly deserves high praise. Having him as my advocate always instills me with gratitude. He simplifies the daunting process of seeking legal advice into an understandable and manageable experience. If you are in pursuit of a legally sharp, efficacious, and reliable counsel, Colin should undoubtedly be your first pick.

Michelle S.

Recent Press Stories

Camas Pregnancy Discrimination

A hair stylist at a salon was fired while on maternity leave and requesting a modified schedule to return to her position. Mr. McHugh sued the Camas salon and its owner for pregnancy discrimination and wrongful termination.

Disability Discrimination at Ridgefield Barn

Mr. McHugh represented an employee of a Ridgefield equestrian center who was terminated when he informed his employer that he was in the hospital for a heart condition. On behalf of the employee, Mr. McHugh sued the barn and its owners for disability discrimination and retaliation.

Sexual Harassment and Religious Discrimination

Mr. McHugh represented a former employee of a real estate development firm in Vancouver, Washington, claiming sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and religious discrimination. The employee alleged that she was strongly encouraged to go to prayer meetings, was sexually harassed by a co-worker and one of her supervisors, and when she reported her concerns, management did not take reasonable steps to address the hostile work environment.

PeaceHealth Race Discrimination Case

In a complaint filed in Clark County Superior Court, a former PeaceHealth employee alleges the hospital system subjected him to months of racial discrimination. Vancouver attorney Colin F. McHugh filed the lawsuit Friday on behalf of Washougal resident, who worked as a project manager for PeaceHealth.

CalPortland Work Safety Retaliation Case

McHugh Law, PLLC represents a deck hand and “miner” on a dredge and barge who worked for CalPortland and was terminated for reporting dangerous hours and working conditions to his supervisor. The miner has been awarded around $500,000.00 in backpay, attorneys’ fees and costs. The case is currently under review by the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission after being repeatedly appealed by CalPortland.

Disability Discrimination Case Against WA DOC

Mr. McHugh represented Corrections Officer employed by the Washington Department of Corrections, who was being discriminated against for having a hearing condition and using cochlear implants. The facility’s managers forced the officer to go through a series of hearing “tests” on an open radio line that could be heard by virtually all of his co-workers and inmates at the facility, and prevented the officer from returning to work, despite being released back to work by his medical providers.

Transgender Workplace Rights FAQ

Common Questions

 

I don’t have any money to pay a lawyer right now, but I am really concerned about gender identity harassment and discrimination at work. What should I do?

For transgender employment rights cases, we provide free initial consultations for potential clients. If we are interested in your case and it looks like something that we can help with, we may take your case on a contingency basis which means that we do not get paid unless you recover through a settlement or verdict. If you are concerned about money, let’s talk. We want to address your concerns regarding transgender rights in the workplace first. Then we can talk about how we get paid.

What are my rights as a transgender employee in the workplace?

Transgender employees have the right to be treated fairly and equally in the workplace, just like any other employee. This includes protections against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on their gender identity. Under federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, which courts have interpreted to include discrimination based on gender identity. Additionally, many state and local laws provide further protections for transgender employees. Have specific questions? Get in touch with us today!

Can my employer legally discriminate against me based on my transgender identity?

No, employers cannot legally discriminate against employees based on their transgender identity. This means they cannot make employment decisions, such as hiring, firing, promotions, or pay, based on an individual’s transgender status. Doing so would violate federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

What should I do if I face harassment or discrimination at work due to my transgender identity?

If you experience harassment or discrimination at work because of your transgender identity, it’s important to take action. Start by documenting the incidents, including dates, times, and details of what occurred. Then, report the behavior to your employer’s HR department or a supervisor. If the issue persists or is not addressed, consider seeking legal advice from an employment law attorney who specializes in transgender rights.

Are there specific laws in place to protect transgender employees from discrimination in Washington and Oregon?

Yes, several federal and state laws provide protections for transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sex, which has been interpreted by courts to include discrimination based on gender identity.

Additionally, Washington’s Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and Oregon’s Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) explicitly prohibit discrimination based on gender identity and expression, offering further legal protections at the state level.

Can my employer deny me restroom access or impose discriminatory dress codes based on my gender identity?

No, employers cannot deny transgender employees access to restrooms that align with their gender identity. Denying access to appropriate restroom facilities could be considered discrimination based on sex or gender identity. Similarly, employers cannot enforce dress codes in a discriminatory manner that targets transgender employees or forces them to conform to binary gender standards.

What steps can I take to ensure my employer respects my chosen name and pronouns?

Communicate your preferred name and pronouns to your employer and HR department. You can do this verbally or in writing, depending on your comfort level. If your employer fails to respect your chosen name and pronouns, document the instances where you were misgendered or referred to by your birth name. You may also consider requesting a meeting with HR to discuss the issue further and remind them of your rights under anti-discrimination laws.

Are transgender healthcare needs covered by my employer’s insurance plan?

Many employer-provided health insurance plans cover transgender-related healthcare needs, including hormone therapy, mental health counseling, and gender-affirming surgeries. However, coverage can vary depending on the specific plan and insurance provider. It’s essential to review your plan documents carefully and reach out to HR or your insurance provider for clarification on coverage for transgender-related healthcare.

Can I be denied promotion or advancement opportunities because of my transgender identity?

No, employers cannot deny promotions or advancement opportunities to employees based on their transgender identity. Doing so would constitute discrimination under federal and state anti-discrimination laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If you believe you were denied a promotion or advancement opportunity because of your transgender identity, you may have legal recourse to challenge the decision.

What legal options do I have if my employer fails to address discrimination or harassment based on my transgender identity?

If your employer fails to address discrimination or harassment based on your transgender identity, you may have legal options available to you. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a state or local fair employment practices agency. You may also have the option to file a lawsuit against your employer for violations of federal or state anti-discrimination laws. It’s essential to consult with an experienced employment law attorney in Washington or Oregon who can help you understand your rights and options for seeking justice.

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