On Monday, the Obama administration paved the way for transgendered individuals to sue their employers if they are unhappy with the restroom arrangements where they work.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a four-page memo stating, “All employees, including transgender employees, should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity… 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 continued, “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.”
The agency also stated that transgendered individuals need not show any documentation, legal or medical, to prove they needed a certain restroom, and threatened employers that they must not have a “segregated facility apart from other employees” or designate a restroom “an unreasonable distance” from where workers plied their trade.
Harper Jean Tobin, director of policy for the National Center for Transgender Equality, delightedly said to BuzzFeed News, “We certainly think it’s a big deal. Even though most employers are getting it right, this is still one of the most common workplace problems for transgender people.”
“A lot of employers know that if OSHA puts out anything, they need to pay attention,” she warned. “There are clearly legal issues and legal peril for employers here if they aren’t doing the right thing.
“If we continue to see unaddressed problems, we are going to push OSHA and other state and federal agencies to take further action,” she threatened.
The Labor Department added fuel to the fire, stating, “if OSHA receives a complaint that an employer is denying a worker access to restrooms, the agency will conduct a full investigation.”
OSHA quoted the Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles, which claimed there are an estimated transgender 700,000 adults in the United States. A 2011 survey of transgender Americans asserted that 21 percent of respondents were “not able to work out a suitable bathroom situation” at their job.