‘M,’ ‘F,’ or ‘X’? Nonbinary Gender Designations in the Workplace

By: Cheryl Behymer, Janet Henrick and Richard Meneghello

You are probably familiar with the concept of transgender status, and even if you haven’t already addressed such a situation at your workplace, you probably have a rough idea of how you would handle a situation involving an employee in transition.

It’s time now for you to ready yourself for the next step in the 21st-century gender revolution and prepare for the day when one of your employees informs you they would prefer to be treated as “nonbinary” — that is, neither male nor female. What do you need to know about this developing issue?

First, let’s examine the scope of the situation. Although we don’t have firm demographic numbers, there are several estimates that help us get a feel for how common it is to have a nonbinary employee. According to a 2015 national survey, some 33 percent of transgender individuals said that, if permitted the choice, they would prefer not to be assigned either gender designation. If we calculate based on the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law’s conclusion in 2016 that approximately 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender, that means there could be over 450,000 nonbinary individuals in the country. And this number will only grow. A reported 12 percent of millennials identified as something other than male or female, according to a March 2017 study.

Similar research demonstrates that nonbinary workers feel pressure at their job when it comes to their lack of gender designation. Twenty-three percent of those polled say they purposefully hide their nonbinary status at the workplace. Of those who publicly identify as nonbinary, almost 20 percent believe they had lost a job because of their status, while a whopping 90 percent believe they have suffered some form of job bias, discrimination, or harassment.

To read this story and other complete articles featured in the January 8, 2017 print edition of Law Week Colorado, copies are available for purchase online.