Bathroom Access Rights for Transgender Employees

EEOC sealThe United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency responsible for interpreting and enforcing the nation’s employment nondiscrimination laws, released a fact sheet addressing the rights of transgender employees to use restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity.

In a nut shell: Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, federal employees must be permitted to use restrooms that align with their gender identity; it is unlawful discrimination to deny an employee access to the restroom that matches her/his gender identity and bathroom access may not be premised or conditioned on any medical procedure. It is also unlawful discrimination to limit a person’s bathroom access to a single-user rather than a common restroom in instances where common facilities are provided.

The question that sometimes arises in cases regarding bathroom access is how to respond to other employees who may feel uncomfortable sharing a common restroom facility with a transgender or gender non-conforming colleague. These questions, at first blush, may seem legitimate and thorny but after consideration it’s revealed that there’s not much meat there. Throughout our history the relative comfort of one group has been argued as a justification for disparate treatment of another and those arguments consistently fail because we do not condition one employee’s right to a workplace free of discrimination on whether a colleague is made uncomfortable.

Transgender federal employees, no matter where their office is located, are entitled to use bathrooms, locker rooms, changing rooms, etc., that are consistent with their identity – just like their cisgender colleagues. Contrary state laws do not at all impact that basic commitment to equality and federal agencies will investigate all allegations of harassment and discrimination.

I encourage you to contact a Union representative if you have any question about this or any other matter of workplace fairness and equality.