OSHA’s Guide To Restroom Access for Transgender Workers

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OSHA’s recent publication of its Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers (“Guide”) further forged OSHA’s foray into the spotlight of the hotly prolific LBGT rights discussion. The Guide, which aims to assure that employers provide a safe and healthful working environment for all employees, underscores the principle that “all employees should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity,” according to Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

Under OSHA’s Sanitation Standard (1910.141), employers are required to provide their employees with toilet facilities. Accordingly, the Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers seeks to avoid adverse health effects that may result if toilets are not available when employees need them, including urinary tract infections, as well as bowel and bladder problems. In particular, the Guide aims to accommodate the estimated 700,000 transgender adults in the United States.  The Guide defines transgender employees as those individuals whose “internal gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned at birth.” For example, a person who identifies as a man should be permitted to use men’s restrooms, and vice versa.

To the extent that the Guide seeks to establish Best Practices, OSHA recommends single occupancy gender-neutral (unisex) facilities and/or the use of multiple-occupant, gender-neutral restroom facilities with lockable single occupant stalls. All employers are expected to find solutions that are safe, convenient, and which respect transgender employees without segregating any employee. Furthermore, transgender employees should not be asked to provide any medical or legal documentation in order to have access to gender-appropriate restroom facilities.

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