Last week the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommended that transgender workers should have access to bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. This is a big step for the transgender community in their fight for acceptance and equal right s protection.
Transgender people have faced discrimination on the job causing stigma and shame. OSHA sites that bathroom access is a civil rights issue, along with being a safety and health matter, which comes under their jurisdiction.
The problems have arisen when employers restrict access or segregate transgender people from other workers by causing them to use gender-neutral or other specific restrooms rather than their gender-identified bathrooms. OSHA is concerned that transgender workers are uncomfortable using a designated bathroom and may avoid using the restroom entirely and cause health concerns at work.
It can also lead to major lawsuits at companies who have practiced this treatment of transgender individuals. On Thursday, the U.S. EEOC sued Deluxe Financial Services for refusing to allow a transgender woman use of the woman’s bathroom. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Britney Austin, who also alleges that she was referred to by male pronouns and made fun of her appearance.
A case involving a disabled veteran, Tamara Lusardi, who transitioned from a male to a female while on the job and denied the use of the woman’s bathroom and continued to be called sir, was won by Lasardi. She maintained that the restroom restriction served as a constant reminder that she was deprived of equal status, respect and dignity in the workplace.
OSHA’s current guideline is consistent with the EEOC ruling such as in the Lussardi case that found restroom restrictions unlawful. The agency also has instructed the employers that they should not ask for any documentation to prove their gender identity.
It is advised by many experts on transgender community issues to advise your employers’ human resource department as what you think transition looks like and what you will need to do to make the transition go smoothly. Obviously, companies are nervous about being sued for discrimination, so it’s important to make your needs known, as companies will abide, according to the federal guidelines.
What remains unknown is how employers will deal with non-transgender employees who have concerns about sharing a bathroom with a transgender person. Will they sue their employer for violating their rights? My guess is, yes.
The bathroom debate is not over, but the fight to use the proper restroom for the transgender individual is over. It is a major victory for the community.