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Monday, June 1, 2015

New OSHA Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Employees

​The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced new guidelines today to ensure that all employees have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

OSHA's “Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers” follows the establishment of an alliance formed between OSHA and the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) in early May of this year. The guidelines cover the basics of gender identity and clarify the importance of equal restroom access as a means to preserve health and safety for all employees. NCTE will be working with OSHA to promote these guidelines and educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities surrounding restroom access over the next two years.

“OSHA is making clear that denying something basic as restroom access to transgender workers is not only an assault on dignity and their rights, but a threat to their health as well,” said NCTE policy director Harper Jean Tobin. "All employers should take note, and workers should use this document as another tool to assert their rights."

Federal OSHA rules requires that all employers provide employees with sanitary and available toilet facilities, so that employees will not suffer the adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available when employees need them. The new guidelines stress that segregating or excluding trans workers from facilities consistent with their gender identity can effectively prevent them from using the restroom at all, at risk to their health. Because they may constitute an unreasonable restriction on this basic guarantee, denial of reasonable access to restrooms consistent with an employee's gender identity may constitute a violation of the OSHA rules, as well as non-discrimination laws. Violations of OSHA rules and non-discrimination laws may provide workers with grounds to file a complaint with OSHA or equivalent state OSHA agencies, and/or a complaint with the EEOC.

The guidelines issued today specifically note that “[t]he employee should determine the most appropriate and safest option for him- or herself.” It is NCTE's position that this guideline extends important protection to non-binary trans people, as people of all gender identities must be allowed to decide which restroom best suits their needs.

“A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers” follows a historic ruling from the EEOC, holding that denying transgender employees access to the correct restroom is discrimination, as well as from the DOL, clarifying that managers shouldn’t second guess employees about what restrooms are right for them to use. This is also consistent with recently updated guidance from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for all federal agencies, similar guidance​ from the Department of Labor for its own employees.

For more information on your rights in the workplace, please visit our Know Your Rights page on employment.

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