Transgender employees and the so-called bathroom conundrum

On my speaking boondoggles around the country, what’s the biggest issue I hear from HR professionals involving transgender employees?

Yep, it’s the use of the bathroom.

Folks, it’s not that complicated. But, I’ll get to that in a sec. First, with a tip of the hat to Joshua Block (@JoshACLU), over the weekend, I read this tweet, which links to this story from Jessica Shepherd (@JessShepSaginaw), about a Planet Fitness location in Michigan that received a complaint from a female gym member. This woman complained to the gym about a transgender woman (assigned male at birth; identifies as female) in the woman’s locker room. She then told other gym members that “a man” was using the woman’s locker room.

So Planet Fitness responded.

It canceled the membership…of the woman who complained. Here’s more from the article:

“After taking her complaints to Planet Fitness’ corporate office, Cormier [the woman who complained] said she was told that the gym was a ‘no judgement zone’ and they would not tell the individual in question to stay out of the women’s locker room. The person has not been identified….A statement released by McCall Gosselin, public relations director for Planet Fitness, states that members can use the locker room corresponding with their personal gender identity.

In a press release, Planet Fitness further explained its actions:

“Planet Fitness is committed to creating a non-intimidating, welcoming environment for our members. Our gender identity non-discrimination policy states that members and guests may use all gym facilities based on their sincere self-reported gender identity. The manner in which this member expressed her concerns about the policy exhibited behavior that management at the Midland club deemed inappropriate and disruptive to other members, which is a violation of the membership agreement and as a result her membership was cancelled.”

When Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted, there’s no way that either Congress or President Johnson envisioned protections for transgender employees. But, the law prohibits discrimination based on sex. And the EEOC has upped its efforts to litigate cases of LGBT discrimination, arguing that it’s still discrimination based on sex. But, even if the EEOC is wrong, and suppose you don’t live in a state or city that has a law prohibiting LGBT discrimination at work, you may ban LGBT discrimination in your workplace.

And, if you do ban LGBT discrimination in your workplace, let employees know by including it in your handbook and, then, training them accordingly.

On the bathroom issue, consider establishing some unisex bathrooms. Otherwise, allow your transgender employees to use the bathroom associated with the gender with which they identify, without having to worry about taking sh*t from their co-workers.

Pun intended.

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