The rights of transgender American’s to utilize public bathrooms which correspond to their gender identity has been highlighted in news reports across the country. But what about private employers? Must they permit transgender employees access to restrooms which correspond to their gender identity? Simply stated, yes.
The EEOC has taken the position that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) protects the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender applicants and employees against employment bias. To highlight this position, the EEOC has issued a new Fact Sheet reminding employers that under federal law, employers may not discriminate against applicants or employees based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. This recent Fact Sheet provides employers specific examples of unlawful sex discrimination. One example of unlawful sex discrimination listed on the new Fact Sheet is denying an employee equal access to a common restroom which corresponds to the employee’s gender identity. In other words, employers are cautioned not to prevent, prohibit or discourage a transgender employee from utilizing a restroom which corresponds to that employee’s gender identity. To do so will expose employers to liability for a violation of Title VII.
This week, the state of North Carolina and the Justice Department have filed dueling lawsuits against each other challenging the interpretation of state and federal civil rights laws on this issue. We will continue to monitor these cases and keep you apprised of any developments on this issue.
For more information about how employers can ensure their employment practices don’t run afoul of Title VII and other civil rights laws, contact Deena B. Rosendahl, Esq.at (201) 947-8855 or by email.