From Caitlyn Jenner to new OSHA guidance on restroom access for transgender workers

Caitlyn Jenner got the cover of Vanity Fair and a million new Twitter followers shortly after confirming that she was no longer Bruce Jenner. So, by riding that wave with a timely blog post, I should at least get page 5 — above the fold — in the latest edition of “Employment-Law Blog Hunks,” the one you all read for the articles.

(Actually, I will be on Knowledge@Wharton’s daily show on SiriusXM channel 111 – Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School today from 10-12 EDT, as a follow-up to yesterday’s post, discussing Monday’s Supreme Court decision in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc.)

Now, before my ego explodes like a baseball off of Giancarlo Stanton’s bat, let’s revisit the issue of transgender employees and restroom access.

As I noted in my prior transgender bathroom post, this issue is real. With an estimated 700,000 adults in the United States who are transgender—meaning their internal gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth (e.g., the sex listed on their birth certificate)—it’s quite likely that this issue will crop up in your workplace. Even the U.S. Army found out the hard way. And then there’s yesterday’s news of transphobic comments from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, where he joked that he wished he had been transgender in high school to shower with the girls.

So, with the spotlight shining brighter than ever on transgender issues, OSHA now weighs in with “A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers.”

OSHA’s Best Practices

The OSHA publication explores gender identity, restroom access as a heath and safety matter, and OSHA’s sanitation standards. It then provides what it deems “model practices for restroom access for transgender employees.” These model practices start with the premise that “all employee should be permitted to use the facilities that correspond to their gender identity.” And, it’s up to the employee to determine for him- or herself “the most appropriate and safest option.”

The OSHA publication offers two optional solutions: (1) single-occupancy gender-neutral (unisex) facilities; and (2) use of the multiple-occupant, gender-neutral restroom facilities with lockable single occupant stalls.

Additionally, the publication warns that employees should not be asked to provide any medical or legal documentation of their gender identity in order to have access to gender-appropriate facilities. Plus, no employee should be required to use a segregated facility apart from other employees because of their gender identity or transgender status.

Transgender issues are still relatively new in the workplace. Stay ahead of the curve by making a point to address them in your employee/manager training.

For more information on transgender issues and your workplace, check out these links:

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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