OSHA Issues Guidelines on Restroom Access for Transgender Workers

By Eric B. Meyer

Caitlyn Jenner got the cover of Vanity Fair and a million new Twitter followers shortly after confirming that she was no longer Bruce Jenner.

Now, let’s revisit the issue of transgender employees and restroom access.

As I noted last March 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. 

OSHA’s Best Practices

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 (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) now weighs in with “A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers.

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.”

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Two workplace bathroom options

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.

Other helpful information

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

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.

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