Imagine that you are
sitting at work, perhaps as you are right now. Sitting at your desk, and you
realize you need to use the restroom. So you stand up, walk down the end of the
hall, walk into the restroom, and don’t think twice, correct? What if there was
no bathroom specifically for you? What if there was a men’s bathroom, but no
women’s (or vice versa). What would you do? Use the wrong one with fear of
retaliation or ridicule? Not go at all?
Gender identity is a
person’s perception of having a particular gender. Identifying as male or
female, among others. Biological sex is the label a person is given at birth
based on their chromosomes and genitals. For most of us, our biological sex
matches our gender identity, and we never give it a second thought. So as
in the previous example, not everyone shares this same experience.
The number varies
depending on the source, but most studies estimate that 0.3 percent of the US
population identifies as transgender or under the umbrella term ‘trans”. This
means that their gender identity does not match the biological sex they were
assigned at birth. While this number may seem small, remember that right now
0.4 percent of Americans are active-duty military personnel.
The solution to this
problem is not a complex one. The Human Rights Campaign recommends allowing
employees to access gender-segregated facilities (such as locker rooms or
bathrooms) that correspond to their gender identity. This will not only dignify
the transgender person, but it also ensures the employer is not in violation of
Occupational Safety and Health (OSHA) regulations, Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act violations, as well las local non-discrimination laws.
Another solution, as
recommended by OSHA, is simply to remove gender from restrooms altogether. OSHA
recommends that all single-occupancy units be designed as gender-neutral, or
multiple-occupant facilities become gender-neutral restrooms with lockable
single person occupant stalls. These single-person gender-neutral bathrooms are
becoming a more popular option, and in some places are being required by local
For us locally, in
January 2016 Philadelphia’s gender-neutral bathroom bill went into effect. This
builds on the previous law that transgender persons can use the bathroom they
feel most comfortable in, but also that all single-occupant restrooms update
the signs to indicate it now as gender-neutral, or face fines. Further 33
cities and townships in PA, and 6 in MD, have local legislation on the books.
Read the full list here.
Taking a stand on this issue now will only benefit employers in the ever-diversifying workplace
environment. This shows that the company is taking a stand in communicating its
values, hopefully before an issue even arises.
Millennials, and looking
forward even Gen-Z, are more open-minded and accepting than previous
generations. Attracting this up-and-coming talent in the tight job market will
be easier because younger generations are more likely to work for companies
whose values align with their own. Finally showing that the company
accommodating people’s needs encourages people to be their authentic selves
which means a more engaged, productive, and profitable workplace.
TLDR: Employers will only benefit by taking a stand now to install
gender-neutral bathrooms in the workplace. They will avoid legal consequences,
and be more likely to attract open-minded younger generations.