OSHA Releases Guidance for Handling Transgender Restroom Use

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Noting that some 700,000 adult Americans now self-identify as transgender, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Monday released a Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers for the private sector.

"The core principle is that all employees, including transgender employees, should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity," said Assistant Labor Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "OSHA's goal is to assure that employers provide a safe and healthful working environment for all employees."

The guidance, which doesn’t carry the force of law, said, “Authorities on gender issues counsel that it is essential for employees to be able to work in a manner consistent with how they live the rest of their daily lives, based on their gender identity. Restricting employees to using only restrooms that are not consistent with their gender identity, or segregating them from other workers by requiring them to use gender-neutral or other specific restrooms, singles those employees out and may make them fear for their physical safety. Bathroom restrictions can result in employees avoiding using restrooms entirely while at work, which can lead to potentially serious physical injury or illness.”

As the transgender movement has grown in visibility, controversies have broken out in school systems and worksites over privacy and the appropriate handling of restroom preferences for those of shifting gender identification. Many private-sector companies now have written policies, OSHA noted, the core belief of which is that “all employees should be permitted to use the facilities that correspond with their gender identify. For example, a person who identifies as a man should be permitted to use men's restrooms, and a person who identifies as a woman should be permitted to use women's restrooms.”

OSHA’s guidance, developed in partnership with the National Center for Transgender Equality, comes nearly a year after President Obama signed an executive order banning discrimination against transgender federal employees. It also comes the same week the Office of Personnel Management released a handbook on LGBT employment policies and as former Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner showcased a new female identity as Caitlin Jenner on the cover of Vanity Fair.

Privacy objections to use of certain restrooms by transgender employees was also part of a larger Equal Employment Opportunity ruling in April in favor of an Army employee who had switched genders.

(Image via  / Shutterstock.com)

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