Trans at Work; Dignity & Discrimination in Yukon

Trans-at-work-Dignity-&-Discrimination

This week we have seen discrimination at its ugliest, its most vile. We watched in horror as news broke from Orlando Florida of the hate-inspired murder of so many at a gay nightclub but this is only the most recent in a long list of attacks.  While we may try and label those as random acts committed by crazed killers, the truth is that systemic discrimination and inequality maintain an environment where such hatred can flourish. The fact that media is hesitant to call this a hate crime illustrates the pervasive discrimination this community consistently faces.

The Liberal Government has introduced legislation to protect transgender people from discrimination and hate crimes. The bill would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender expression or identity. Prime Minister Trudeau stated “Far too many people still face harassment, discrimination and violence for being who they are. This is unacceptable”.

YEU has been working alongside our trans and gender non-conforming members, urging employers to ensure difference does not preclude employment, workplace safety or dignity. A system designed without thought for those outside the strict male/female binary ensures trans workers face discrimination at every stage of their employment journey.

Within the corporate structure of YG, workers regularly encounter incidental discrimination in the form of old policies, language and practices established before anyone considered inclusion as an objective. That type of discriminatory practice and language is not difficult to remedy, if the will exists.

From the moment an employee receives their offer of employment, they are forced into a system that makes all gender identities besides male and female invisible.  To accept a job with YG, individuals must log in through an online portal and select a gender from a drop down menu – the options are Male, Female and Unknown. For a worker who is clear in their gender identity, “Unknown” is an affront. This is gender-based, systemic discrimination.  Even the forms required to access medical leave or to request accommodation offer two gender options; male & female. In cases where a trans worker is seeking accommodation, the forms required for accommodation cannot be completed.

Some expressions of intolerance are more overt.  Trans or gender non-conforming workers are afraid to be themselves in the workplace for fear of bullying or jeopardizing career advancement.   The workplace culture permits supervisors to use their own personal discomfort with others’ gender presentation as a reason to restrict access to training, to promotion, to employment itself.   In strict gender dichotomous work-sites, the need to accommodate workers is seen as too great a burden and employees are at risk of being performance managed out of work. Of course other reasons are given officially, but it’s easy to see prejudice at play. A tranPULSE study from Ontario notes that 13% of transgender people report they have been “constructively dismissed” for being transgender.

Some employers are doing a better job. The City of Whitehorse has initiated required LGBTQI Welcoming Workplace training for all staff in an effort to create an equitable work environment and to ensure clients don’t experience discrimination when accessing City services.  Yukon College has taken steps as well through Transgender Remembrance services. Private employers like Starbucks have policies & literature educating employees on the sensitive use of pronouns, and are quick to act in support of a worker who faces discrimination from colleagues or a supervisor.

Until the Human Rights Act is amended to explicitly include gender identity and expression as protected grounds, trans and gender non-conforming Yukoners are covered under the protected grounds of sex.  Employers must respect that trans workers need to be in safe and appropriate work situations. Forcing them to identify gender at every step of their process, demanding doctor’s verification of gender identity, encroaching on dignity through intrusive and unnecessary procedural systems is a violation of the Human Rights Act.

Yukon Employees’ Union invites the Government of Yukon to act as a model employer. Create gender neutral washrooms and remove the need to identify gender. Entrench policies and procedures which recognize some workers are gender non-conforming, trans, inter-sex and 2 spirited. Work collaboratively with the trans community to identify where gaps exist and how best to bridge them.

Recognize that accommodation requests from trans employees are not intrinsically medical in nature and stop demanding medical certificates for non-medical issues. Acknowledge your responsibility to protect workers, no matter their gender identity, under the Human Rights Act.

Yukon Government is re-launching a diversity training program through the Yukon Women’s Directorate entitled GIDA, Gender Inclusive Diversity Analysis. The GIDA documents state “Good public policy works toward ending discrimination in Yukon society and creating a society that includes everyone.” Sadly the document refers to intersectionality & inclusion while only ever referencing women and men, boys and girls. There is not a single reference to trans or gender non-conforming individuals nor any mention of those who exist outside the binary. Even this training program, designed to help identify & eradicate discrimination, discriminates.

An authentic culture of inclusion will benefit our Yukon community far beyond the workplace doors. We challenge you to create a new standard of equality and inclusion to help diminish hatred and violence.

A Little Straight Talk about Workplace Discipline

disciplineIn the context of employment, discipline is the employer’s corrective response to a workplace issue, usually related to your performance or behavior. While Employers have the right to discipline employees, there are a number of questions that must be asked and answered before an employee is sanctioned.

First, the employer must establish that you did something “wrong” or acted in a manner that warrants discipline. In most cases, you will be invited to an investigative meeting so that the facts of the matter can be established.  For most employees covered by a Collective Agreement, your right to representation by the Union starts here. Call us for representation.  While some employees choose to go through this step alone, it’s important to remember that if the right questions aren’t addressed at this stage, you may receive discipline that is either not warranted, or more than you deserve.

You have the right to know what you are being disciplined for, and to present your side of the story.

When discipline is being considered, there are a number of factors that the union will insist the employer examines including:

• Did the employee act willfully?
•Was the employee properly trained?
• Has the employee received previous discipline?
• Are there mitigating circumstances?

If the employee’s actions warrant discipline, the next question is “how much is enough?” The employer’s corrective response should match the employee’s actions; discipline is not intended to be punitive. The union will look at whether the amount of discipline is in line with the offence and whether discipline has been progressive.

Progressive discipline provides a graduated range of responses to employee performance or conduct problems. Disciplinary measures range from mild to severe, depending on the nature and frequency of the problem. It is important to keep in mind that your employer is not obliged to follow a specific path; some conduct warrants substantial discipline regardless of the employee’s prior history.

Sometimes it’s not clear whether you’re receiving discipline, or coaching, or a verbal warning. If you are in doubt, or you are called to a meeting that might lead to discipline, call us; 667-2331.

CLiFF v6, Whitehorse

CLiFF-RED-Whitehorse-poster-2014We are excited and proud to once again host the Canadian Labour International Film Festival at our YEU Office in Whitehorse. For six years now this festival has provided a platform for independent films from around the world showcasing work & workers from many backgrounds. These stories are not often told and offer us insight into worlds we rarely hear of.

All CLiFF screenings nationwide are offered free of charge to anyone who wishes to attend. Screenings are held in theaters, union halls and living rooms across the country to audiences as diverse  as the communities in which they live.  These are not all capital L Labour films… we are all workers. As such, these workers’ stories will resonate with everyone in some way.  This year we are offering a simplified version of the festival; you will not need to choose which films to see! All the films listed below will be shown in one large screening room so you won’t miss a thing!

Farewell to Nova Scotia: Explore the dilemma faced by many young workers in Atlantic Canada; stay in the place you love or leave to pursue opportunity elsewhere.

Joe Hill’s Secret Canadian Hideout: Joe Hill once said “don’t mourn, organize!” This movie tells the story of the search for the man who never died. Set in Rossland British Columbia.


Judith – Portrait of a Street Vendor: An intimate journey into the life of Judith, a street vendor from Guatemala, working and organizing in New York City.

Luminaris:  In a world controlled and timed by light, an ordinary man has a plan that could change the natural order of things. Animated.

Ngutu: Ngutu is a newspaper seller, a street vendor who hardly sells any papers at all.

 

The Olympics’ Disposable Workers: The migrant laborers who built Sochi’s venues have endured harsh conditions, deportation and stiffed wages.

Qatar’s World Cup: E:60 traveled to Qatar to investigate the working and living conditions of workers in the country set to host the 2022 World Cup.


Stapled: A look at the integral role of the urban street poster in the creation of artistic communities. (No preview available)

Welcome to Dresden: Dresden Ontario was the scene of an elaborate campaign by the National Unity Association to end anti-Black racism and discrimination. This film highlights the contribution of union activists to the struggle for racial equality.

 

Working People – A History of Labour in British Columbia: Using more than 1000 images from museums and archives, this extraordinary film brings the province’s working past to life.

railway laborers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We invite you to join us for an evening of films, conversation and yes… FREE POPCORN! Everyone is welcome and our facility is wheelchair accessible.

Curious about the history of CLiFF? Visit www.labourfilms.ca and find out more.

Visit our Facebook Event page to join the event! We hope to see you at the movies Thursday November 20th, 7pm!