Trans workers disproportionately impacted by harassment, violence at work

November 13, 2022

Canada’s unions are calling attention to the alarming results from the recent national survey on harassment and violence in Canadian workplaces, which revealed that non-binary and trans workers were disproportionately impacted by these experiences in the workplace.

Canada’s unions are marking Trans Week of Awareness with a renewed commitment to supporting trans people in the workplace by calling for a comprehensive and targeted approach to violence and harassment prevention. Members, governments and employers must work together to ensure a coordinated response.

“The evidence is painstakingly clear. Two spirit, trans, non-binary and gender non confirming people are bearing the brunt of violence and harassment both within and outside of the workplace,” said Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice President at the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). “Almost three quarters of gender diverse respondents have faced sexual harassment and violence at work. And while no one should ever go through this, these staggering results show that gender diverse individuals are disproportionally impacted. This is compounded by the fact that these folks are also more likely to experience other forms of harassment in their day to day lives, like online harassment.”

The data from the CLC survey is echoed in a forthcoming report from Justice Trans, a national organization dedicated to increasing access to justice for Two Spirit, trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming (2STNBGN) communities across Canada. In a trans-Canadian Access to Justice Legal Needs Assessment for 2STNBGN people, Justice Trans found that 73% of respondents cited experiences of targeted discrimination and harassment as a top legal issue they have faced in their lifetime, and many cited specific instances of transphobic harassment and violence occurring both at work and in union spaces. 

The CLC recently developed Workers in Transition, a guide designed specifically for trade union leaders, union staff representatives, local executives, committee members and shop stewards to take action to support 2STNBGN workers. Some examples of actions unions can take to support trans workers include:

  • Negotiating benefit coverage for the medical treatments required for life as a trans person and for gender-affirming transition; 
  • Provide educational sessions for members and union reps;
  • Negotiate anti-harassment training that includes harassment based on gender identity as well as homophobia and make it clear to employers that the union will challenge any attempts to discriminate against trans workers;
  • Negotiate transition plans and support plans that include transition leave, benefit coverage, and plans for transitioning on the job;
  • Publicise the union’s support of the rights of trans workers among the membership;
  • Encourage delegates to union training and union events to use the pronoun field on name tags and tent cards to avoid misgendering each other; and
  • Publish the union’s anti-discriminatory positions and news about the actions the union takes to fight discrimination.

“Trans Week of Awareness is a critical opportunity to not only look outwardly but inwardly too. We all have a role to play to better protect the rights of our trans members and ensure they have the support they need in our workplaces, in our unions and in our communities,” said Rousseau.

TWA is a week-long international visibility and awareness effort to bring to light the challenges faced by trans people in our societies. The week runs from November 13 to 19, just before Trans Day of Remembrance on November 20, which is a day to memorialise the lives of trans people who were murdered due to transphobic violence in the previous year. Learn more about TWA and TDOR here. 

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