US network executives say they will meet with LGBT groups over a comedy which has drawn criticism for its depiction of men dressing as women to find work.

ABC’s Work It will follow two unemployed men who have “learned the hard way that the current recession is more of a ‘man-cession’ and their skills aren’t in high demand”, according to publicity ahead of the show’s launch in January.

When one of the main characters sees a pharmaceuticals company’s advert for female sales representatives, he attends an interview dressed as a woman and is hired.

Matt Kane, Associate Director of Entertainment Media for GLAAD, said Work It “is based on the notion that men dressed as women is inherently funny”.

“Work It invites the audience to laugh at images of men trying to adopt a feminine appearance, thereby also making it easier to mock people whose gender identity and expression are different than the one they were assigned at birth.”

GLAAD’s Acting President Mike Thompson said: “Transphobia is still all too prevalent in our society and this show will only contribute to it. It will reinforce the mistaken belief that transgender women are simply ‘men pretending to be women,’ and that their efforts to live their lives authentically as women are a form of lying or deception.”

Kane also criticised the promotional materials for the show, which include an image of the two men using urinals while dressed as women.

He said: “Imagery like this is one of the first things anti-LGBT activists resort to when trying to deny transgender people protections against discrimination.”

In his open letter, Kane points out that ABC has in the past “led the pack” with positive portrayals of transgender characters in shows like Ugly Betty and actors like Candis Cayne, but says this “perhaps makes the sting worse”.

Kane has called for the promotional poster to be taken out of circulation, and for the network to reconsider airing the programme.

ABC executives are confirmed to be meeting with representatives from GLAAD and from the Human Rights Campaign, but the network has so far made no statement on the issue.