Thursday, May 7, 2015

OSHA chimes in on transgender bathrooms

OSHA is no stranger to regulating workplace bathrooms. Now, Employment Law 360 [sub. req.] reports that OSHA and the National Center for Transgender Equality “have entered into a partnership to develop and distribute information to ensure transgender employees have safe and adequate access to workplace restrooms.” According to NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling, “Transgender workers can be prevented from using common workplace restrooms, which is a threat to their physical health and a violation of federal law.” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels adds, “Through this alliance, we will jointly work with the NCTE to develop products and guidance materials to improve workplace safety and health for all workers.”

This is an interesting issue, and, especially for employees and employers for whom this issue causes some degree of discomfort, can present a real problem. Yet, this is a problem with a simple solution—establish a unisex bathroom. Or, you can permit transgender employees to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify. Either way, this is an issue you should be discussing with your employees and building in your EEO / anti-harassment training. This issue is not going away (see Bruce Jenner), and the sooner you address it in your workplace, the less risk you are taking.

[Image courtesy of Robin Shea’s Employment & Labor Insider]