Transworkplace

Transgender Workplace Diversity Network

Q: There is someone at work who is from a very religious background, and they are having some difficulty coming to terms with my transition.  Their attitude makes me quite uncomfortable, particularly as this person seems to think it is their job to talk to me about their religious beliefs. HR seems to think it is a question of religious freedom, and is reluctant to help, particularly because this person is loud about being forced to accept me against their religious beliefs.  Is this an issue of religious freedom?"

 

Answer: While there are laws protecting employees from discrimination or harassment based on religion, and requiring accommodation of some religious practices in the workplace, there is no absolute right of "religious freedom" per se in the context of employment.  However, it is not your role to explain the law to your employer.  More to the point is making sure HR understands that enforcing non-discrimination and non-harassment policies do not impinge on religious freedom.  The company is not asking employees to change their religious beliefs.  Employees are entitled to their private opinions regarding transgender or transsexual identity.  Rather, the company's interest is in prohibiting discrimination or harassment based on your gender identity, and in promoting a positive workplace environment.  Just as any employee would not be permitted to engage in unwanted proselytizing or evangelizing in the workplace environment, your co-worker can be asked to refrain from giving you religious opinions about your gender identity, and this is not in itself religious discrimination. They are not being "forced to accept you," they are choosing to work at this employer, and must follow the employer's rules of workplace conduct. I would considering putting your concerns in writing to HR, because if the situation escalates, it is important to be on the record that you notified your employer of the situation early enough that they could intervene to avoid a hostile workplace environment.     

 

Feel free to respond with a different answer, your experience, or another question. I note that my suggestions here do not constitute legal advice, and may not be best for any individual situation, which should be judged based on individual facts and circumstances.

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