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EEOC reinforces transgender right to bathroom access

by | May 12, 2016 | Firm News, workplace discrimination |

Transgender employees in Pennsylvania and throughout the country are protected from discrimination in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has released a fact sheet reminding employers of this and stating that bathroom access cannot be restricted for transgender employees. The fact sheet also said that state law that provides otherwise, such as the one in North Carolina that has created a firestorm, is not an adequate defense. Under federal law, discrimination against transgender employees is considered sex discrimination.

According to the fact sheet, a transgender person is a person whose gender identity is not the same as the sex listed on their birth certificate, but the person is not required to undergo surgery or other medical procedures or undergo a legal name change. It is only necessary that the person customarily presents as a different gender. Employers are also not permitted to require transgender employees to restrict themselves to a single-user bathroom unless it is made an option for all employees.

Furthermore, according to the EEOC, denying these rights on the grounds that the employer or other employees are uncomfortable is not permitted. Courts have reached similar conclusions in cases that involved transgender students who wanted to use the bathroom associated with their gender identity in their school.

Discrimination against transgender people and bathroom access is a much-discussed topic. While federal law remains clear in its requirements, some state and local governments have attempt to pass contrary laws. Transgenders might find themselves targeted in the workplace for ridicule or as an object of hostility, and if this occurs, they may want to speak to an attorney to learn how best to protect and assert their civil rights.