Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: I’m 19, searching for a part-time entry-level job, and transgender. Do I disclose that I’m transitioning to potential employers?

I’ve been on hormones for almost four months, look quite masculine still, but do have very long, feminine hair and wear androgynous clothes, some light makeup, etc. What I’m confused about is when to, or if I even should, mention that I’m trans before getting hired.

I believe that it is important to bring it up, seeing as how it will be affecting my work to some extent — I’ll continue to transition and look more feminine, and I don’t think I will look clearly female for a while yet. I also may make some of the relevant legal changes relatively soon. If my employer discriminates against me on the basis of this, there are no laws protecting me against that even if I’m already an employee. By telling employers early, it seems to me like I’m weeding bad fits out as much as they’re weeding out bad candidates.

A: Well, first, assuming that you’re in the U.S., you do have protections under federal law. In 2012, the EEOC held that discrimination against transgender people violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. In addition, 18 states and D.C. ban discrimination based on gender identity. That doesn’t mean that companies don’t still discriminate, but I did want to let you know that there’s some intended protection in the law.

As for whether and when to mention it: I think you’ve got a bunch of different options here.

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First and foremost, you’re not obligated to disclose it at all. It won’t affect your work and it shouldn’t be relevant to them. And it’s possible that you could get a sense of how comfortable a workplace this is likely to be for you by asking about things like non-discrimination policies and how LGBT-friendly the work culture is.

But if you’re more comfortable raising it up-front so that you can gauge whether the employer’s reaction is the reaction of a place you want to work, that’s fine too. If you want to go that route, waiting to raise it until the offer stage makes it harder for an employer to openly discriminate against you, since if they pull the offer, it’s going to be pretty clear why they pulled it. (This is also why people are also usually advised to wait for the offer to stage to raise that they’re pregnant, need a reasonable accommodation for a disability or a religious practice, or so forth.) But on the other hand, that could put you in a position where you could end up working somewhere that turns out to be unwelcoming or even hostile. (But I do think you’ll get some data simply from the way they respond when you bring it up, and could use that to make a decision.)

So the other option is to raise it at the interview stage, just like you might ask about anything else regarding their culture or other things that are important to you to screen for in an employer. (For example: “I want to let you know that I’m transgender and in the process of transitioning. Can you give me a sense of how LGBT-friendly the office culture is?”) This option carries the risk that if they do want to discriminate against you, they could just not offer you the job and you wouldn’t know that this was the reason — but if you’re comfortable deciding that you wouldn’t want to work for a company like that anyway, then this could be the way to go.

I don’t think there’s one right option here; I’d do whichever feels most comfortable to you. And you don’t even need to decide ahead of time; you can see how the interview goes, and decide in the moment if you want to.

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By the way, you might also check the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index, which scores major businesses on things like non-discrimination protections, inclusive benefits and diversity practices, and respectful gender transition guidelines. Only large companies are listed there, but it could be a good source of information on some of the places you’re applying. Good luck!

Q: Can I offer to take on the cleaning work for my office for extra pay? I have a full time job working in an office doing graphic design. The company hires a cleaning company, and they come once per week, on the weekends when the office is closed. They do an unsatisfactory job, and often times I end up cleaning my own station, taking trash out to the dumpsters, wiping down the kitchen, etc. Last week they didn’t even show up!

A: I wouldn’t. Offering to take on the cleaning work in addition to your regular work comes with the risk that it will (unfairly) devalue your design work to them, or even that they’ll come to expect you to do cleaning or other janitorial work for your regular salary as part of your regular job. Seek part-time work outside your company so that you’re not mixing the two.

These questions are adapted from ones that originally appeared on Ask a Manager. Some have been edited for length.

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