Earlier this month, OSHA published a Guide to assist employers who may have questions about providing bathroom access to transgender employees. The brief Guide notes that studies show there are an estimated 700,000 adults in the U.S. who consider themselves to be transgendered. OSHA states that restricting those employees to use restrooms who are not consistent with their gender identity, or by segregating them from other workers, “singles out those employees and may make them fear for their physical safety.” Causing a transgender employee to avoid using a restroom while at work can lead to serious illness.
OSHA Sanitation standard 1910.141 requires employers to provide toilet facilities to their workers. The core belief behind this standard with regard to transgendered individuals, according to the Guide, is that all employees should be permitted to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identity. OSHA believes that the best restroom policies should include additional options beyond just men and women’s segregated bathrooms.
Those options could include:
- single-occupancy gender-neutral (unisex) facilities and use of multi-occupant
- gender-neutral restroom facilities with lockable single occupant stalls
OSHA goes on to state that employees should not be required to provide any medical or legal documentation of their gender identity in order to have access to gender-appropriate restrooms. Transgender workers should not also be required to use a segregated facility apart from other employees due to their gender identity status.
The bottom line for employers, according to this Guide, is that transgender employees should be able to select the restroom of their choice that best reflects their own gender identity. This Guide is more evidence that the Department of Labor is very focused on gender identity issues and employers should be aware that employment policies that appear to treat transgender employees differently will come under scrutiny.