Transgender people have recently received a great deal of publicity and more acceptance in their communities. Although the issue is not a new one, employers are still learning how to accommodate transgender people in the workplace. At least one in five transgender workers has reported being discriminated against while at work. One particular area that causes concern is employee bathrooms. If you are a business owner or simply have transgender co-workers, you need to understand their rights in the restroom.
OSHA requires that employers supply separate bathrooms for men and women employees unless the business has fewer than fifteen employees. In that case, one unisex bathroom is allowed, but it must have a lock and at least one toilet. These standards are the law of the land, and employers must follow them or face legal action. Interpreting this law for transgender employees has caused some confusion for employers.
Gender Assigned Bathrooms
Problems occur in the workplace when employers and fellow employees do not understand which bathroom a transgender person should use. OSHA recently created an online guide for handling this issue. They recommend that employees use the bathroom of the gender with which they "internally" identify. This means that whether or not employees have completed a physical transformation, they should use the bathroom of their perceived gender and not the one they were born into.
As an alternative strategy, OSHA recommends providing non-gender-specific single bathrooms or non-gender specific multi-stall bathrooms with individual locks. Any of these methods is legal as long as employees have proper and prompt access to restroom facilities.
The OSHA recommendations do not carry the authority of law, so employers can implement their own policies. However, they cannot legally discriminate against transgender employees in this matter. The transgender community still suffers from this issue, since many people feel that others cannot really change their gender. In their minds, someone born a woman should use a woman's bathroom whether they identify as male or not. This perception is why some states and the District of Columbia have mandated gender-neutral bathrooms in public places.
In truth, only education and acceptance will stop discrimination against transgender people. Ending the confusion over proper bathroom usage is one step that will save employees discomfort and humiliation. All employees are entitled to privacy in restrooms, and transgender employees do not forfeit that right. By law, everyone gets a convenient and secure bathroom experience. For more information about employment and labor law, visit Alterman & Associates LLC.