OSHA: Gender Identity and Restroom Access

Posted June 3, 2015 at 4:23 pm

The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued new guidelines recommending best practices for employers regarding restroom access for transgender employees.

These guidelines require that employers permit transgender employees to use the restroom facilities that correspond to their gender identities. The 4-page booklet, entitled “Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers,” was requested by The National Center for Transgender Equality, to ensure that transgender employees are able to work in a manner that’s consistent with how they live the rest of their daily lives.

An estimated 700,000 adults in the U.S. are transgender, i.e., their internal gender identity is different from the sex listed on their birth certificate, says OSHA, based on data from UCLA’s Williams Institute. “Restricting employees to using only restrooms that are not consistent with their gender identity, or segregating them from other workers by requiring them to use gender-neutral or other specific restrooms, singles those employees out and may make them fear for their physical safety,” the guidelines say. “Bathroom restrictions can result in employees avoiding using restrooms entirely while at work, which can lead to potentially serious physical injury or illness.”

The OSHA guidelines follow the position taken by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on transgender issues. Many states have adopted similar positions. It’s probable that many TRSA members employ transgender employees, and that those companies will have to follow EEOC, OSHA and state laws protecting transgender employees from discrimination and specifically requiring that they receive equal access to restroom facilities, says TRSA’s general counsel Steve Fellman.  

Providing access to a unisex restroom may not be enough, adds Fellman. OSHA’s best practices also include additional options, including a single-occupancy gender-neutral or unisex facility or multiple-occupant, gender-neutral restroom facility with lockable single-occupant stalls. “Regardless of the physical layout of a worksite, all employers need to find solutions that are safe and convenient and respect transgender employees,” according to the guidelines.