Employment Law and Inclusivity in the Workplace

June 1 marks the beginning of Pride Month in the United States, serving both as a celebration of LGBTQ+ communities and a way to commemorate the ongoing fight for equality. This month also brings the opportunity to reflect and expand upon inclusivity within the workplace. While companies continue to move inclusivity forward, there are many components of the workplace that have yet to catch up.

As an example, each year businesses in the United States with 100 or more employees are required to submit an EEO-1 form to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), which gathers data of certain metrics of employees. One field on the EEO-1 form asks companies to disclose the gender identities of their workforce. Currently, however, the EEO-1 form only has boxes for the binary male and female genders.

As more employees self-identify as non-binary, this lack of inclusiveness in the EEO-1 form creates issues for employers. By not allowing a third option on the form outside of male and female on the EEO-1 form, many employers inadvertently end up misgendering their employees on these forms. Many employers are not aware that they may designate a different gender by using the comments section on the EEO-1 form to note nonbinary gender identities. Employers should seek to represent their employees’ gender identities as accurately as possible and note that employees are not required to designate a binary gender marker of male or female.

While the EEO-1 form has not caught up with contemporary concepts of gender and self-expression, this should not stop employers from striving to create an inclusive and welcoming environment in the workplace. All employers, regardless of size, should consider allowing employees to include their preferred pronouns in their email signature lines and Zoom handles, which would allow them to self-identify in the way that feels most authentic to them. Employers should also consider using the more inclusive pronoun “they” in communications with employees instead of the gendered “he or she,” such as in company-wide emails, employee handbooks, and other communications.

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