Transgender Bathrooms at Work

Transgender discrimination is potentially treading new territory for future employment lawsuits. Consider adopting these federal guidance standards.



The federal government is leading out by example with its new policies about how to treat transgender individuals at the workplace. Because transgender discrimination is potentially treading new territory for future employment lawsuits, companies may want to adopt these federal workplace guidance standards. Of particular interest is public restroom use.

Here is the federal workplace guidance for transgender individuals concerning sanitary and related facilities:

The Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (DOL/OSHA) guidelines require agencies to make access to adequate sanitary facilities as free as possible for all employees in order to avoid serious health consequences. For a transitioning employee, this means that, once he or she has begun working in the gender that reflects his or her gender identity, agencies should allow access to restrooms and (if provided to other employees) locker room facilities consistent with his or her gender identity. Transitioning employees should not be required to have undergone or to provide proof of any particular medical procedure (including gender reassignment surgery) in order to have access to facilities designated for use by a particular gender. Under no circumstances may an agency require an employee to use facilities that are unsanitary, potentially unsafe for the employee, located at an unreasonable distance from the employee's work station, or that are inconsistent with the employee’s gender identity. Agencies are encouraged to provide unisex, single-user restrooms when feasible to maximize comfort and access for everyone, including individuals with disabilities and those with young children, however transgender employees should not be limited to using these facilities. Because every workplace is configured differently, agencies with questions regarding employee access to any facilities within an agency may contact OPM (Office of Personnel Management) for further guidance.

In addition to public restroom use, the federal workplace standards provide guidance to employers who have employees going through the transition process while employed, discussing sensitive issues such as: confidentiality and privacy, dress and appearance, names and pronouns, workplace assignments and duties, record keeping, sick and medical leave, and insurance benefits.

They also give direction for handling applicants who have already transitioned and formerly worked by a different name and gender. 

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