How to Run Employment Background Checks on Transgender Candidates

2 min read
Fri, Apr 02, 2021

How to Run Employment Background Checks on Transgender Candidates

According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, more than three-quarters of transgender people have faced some form of workplace discrimination including refusal to hire. A 2020 landmark Supreme Court case, Bostock v. Clayton County, lead to guidance from the EEOC and Title VII Civil Rights protection of transgender employment discrimination. It could be challenging for both employers and transgender candidates to get on the same page regarding background checks. We're here to clear it up as best as we can. 

Here's how to run employment background checks on transgender candidates.


What's a Deadname?

A particular challenge that could affect pre-employment background checks is a transgender person's "deadname" or the name given at birth. Hiring managers can ensure the employment application asks for other names that an applicant would have used, just as it would for maiden names or aliases. Calling someone by their birth name is called "deadnaming" and is offensive to transgender people. 

Do Pronouns Matter?

To those who have transitioned from male-to-female, female-to-male or even those who are gender-neutral, yes indeed. Pronouns are just as valuable as part of a person's identity. Employers who wish to create a more inclusive workplace must ask candidates which pronouns they prefer. 

See also: HR Question: Gender Neutral or Transgender Employees in the Workplace

How to Verify Previous Education or Employment

Transgender individuals may be able to change all documents used in the hiring process to their new legal name, especially if there is fear or a triggered response to being outed as transgender. Another helpful tip is for transgender candidates to reconnect with former employers or references to transition their information. Otherwise, again it's important that employers know other names that are connected to the same individual.

Can Background Checks Be Run without Disclosing Gender?

Some trans rights activists believe that it's too triggering for transgender individuals to disclose their information prior to transitioning, especially if they prefer to not be out at work. It can be challenging to get legal documents changed, especially depending on the state or local governments pushing back against transgender rights. However, many background checks can be conducted without the Applicant disclosing their gender. Knowing the gender can help reduce false positive hits in a background check (especially if the Applicant's name is a common name), but most screening reports can be conducted without the candidate having to disclose their gender.  

How to Be an Ally

Consider terms that might be used by those who have transitioned. GLAAD offers a helpful list of tips for those who wish to be transgender allies and also a glossary of terms. One thing to note is that the decision to transition isn't taken lightly and those who have may still be working through physical surgeries or disclosure of what they're going through. Confidentiality, privacy, and understanding are very important as the transition is viewed as their authentic self, so discussion about their life prior to transition can be difficult. It's essential for employers to recognize that transgender candidates and employees are protected under the Civil Rights Act and can be valuable in a more diversified workplace. 

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