Defining gender is no longer only a matter of determining whether a person has male or female genitalia. Today, we recognize transgenders as those people who identify with a different gender than the one with which they were born or assigned at birth.
While only a small percent of transgender individuals undergo sex reassignment surgery, many attempt to live their lives according to the gender with which they identify. The medical community and other experts have increasingly come to realize that being able to use the restroom that corresponds to their gender identity is an important part of a transgender individual’s health and well-being.
In spite of the greater understanding of what it means for a person to be transgender today, there are still areas of disagreement about their rights to assume a different gender identity in their interactions with others. One of the most significant is that of which bathroom or dressing room a transgender person should use.
Restroom Conflicts in the Workplace
Although there are no federal laws to protect transgender individuals, a number of states have laws that are designed to prevent gender discrimination in the workplace. Currently, these states have employment laws to protect employees relative to gender identity.
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- Rhode Island
Some common complaints against transgender people using the restrooms of choice in businesses are that it puts women at a greater risk of molestation or being attacked, and it puts businesses at a greater risk of being sued. Some business owners feel that they are at risk whether they refuse to let transgenders use the restroom of their choice or if another customer is attacked or molested by someone pretending to be a transgender. Experts are quick to point out that the transgender person is the one who is most likely to have to face ridicule or harassment in the restroom, and that laws are designed to protect them.
At a time when more states are adopting laws that reflect an increased understanding of transgenders, North Carolina has passed a law that has the opposite impact. On March 23, 2016, North Carolina became the first state to pass anti-transgender legislation.
Among the specifications of the bill, it forces transgender students to use restrooms that differ from the gender with which they identify. Other states considered passing similar bills this year, but failed to do so after listening to the protests from transgender young people, their parents, business leaders, and others who recognized the negative impact of passing this type of law. Not only will the law cause damage to the transgender people it impacts directly, but also to the schools who must now enforce these restrictive policies.
For now, and hopefully in the future, the other states will either have laws to specifically protect the rights of transgender people, or they will be protected to some degree through civil rights. Anyone who has been denied the use of a restroom, dressing room, or other facilities because they are transgender should contact a gender discrimination lawyer at Barrett & Farahany, LLP to learn more about their legal options.
Businesses and employers who deny access to the appropriate bathroom may be guilty of sex discrimination under the law. They have a few options for creating a restroom policy that will protect them and the transgender individuals using their facilities. They may simply allow transgender people to use the restroom of their choice, create only unisex restrooms, or have a separate unisex restroom.
To keep everyone happy on both sides of the argument, and prevent singling out transgender customers or employees, individual bathrooms may be implemented for use by everyone. This not only accommodates transgender people and those who don’t want to share the bathroom with them, it also makes it convenient for people who are disabled and who require assistance from a person of the opposite sex, or for opposite sex parents attending to their children.
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