Maryland companies should be aware that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued a fact sheet on workplace discrimination against transgender employees. The agency states that it is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and that federal law supersedes contrary state law in these types of matters.
North Carolina, Mississippi and the town of Oxford, Alabama, have issued ordinances forcing transgender individuals to use bathrooms based on their biological sex. The EEOC states that an employee’s right to use a bathroom is not conditioned upon to gender reassignment surgery or other medical procedures. Further, employers cannot circumvent the requirement by restricting a transgender employee to a single-user restroom. However, a single-user bathroom may be used if all employees have access to it.
The EEOC defines “transgender” as an individual whose gender expression or identity is different from the sex listed on the original birth certificate. A transgender woman is someone who was assigned as a male at birth but who self-identifies as female. Conversely, a transgender man is someone who was assigned as a female at birth but who self-identifies as male. Employers may need to update their employee anti-discrimination policies to reflect the EEOC’s position.
Transgender employees who have been denied the use of a bathroom at work due to their sex and are as a result facing a hostile working environment may want to discuss the situation with an employment law attorney. If an employer has refused to follow federal law to the employee’s detriment, an attorney may recommend initiating the legal process through the filing of a discrimination claim with the EEOC.
Source: National Law Review, “EEOC Stresses Title VII Bars Discrimination against Transgender Workers, Including Regarding Bathroom Access,” Michelle Phillips, May 4, 2016