On May 2, 2016, the EEOC issued a Fact Sheet entitled "Bathroom Access Rights for Transgender Employees Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964." Title VII is a federal law prohibiting discrimination in the workplace based on race, color, national origin, religion, and sex. Dating back to a 2012 case, the EEOC has interpreted Title VII's prohibition on sex discrimination to include discrimination based on transgender status, or gender identity.
For specific employment-related practices, the EEOC Fact Sheet highlights the following recent EEOC holdings on transgender employees:
- denying a transgender employee equal access to common bathrooms corresponding to the employee's gender identity is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII;
- a transgender employee's bathroom access rights cannot be conditioned upon the employee undergoing surgery or providing any proof of a medical procedure; and
- employers cannot require transgender employees to use a single-user bathroom, rather than a common use or communal bathroom. The Fact Sheet notes employers can make single-user bathrooms equally available to all employees.
In Iowa, the federal and state laws are aligned -- the Iowa Civil Rights Act ("ICRA") added gender identity to its list of protected classes in 2008. Therefore, a claim of discrimination based on an employee's transgender status would fall under the protected class of "gender identity" under the ICRA and "sex" under Title VII.
The Fact Sheet advises "[g]ender-based stereotypes, perceptions, or comfort level must not interfere with the ability of any employee to work free from discrimination, including harassment." It also notes these employment protections "address conduct in the workplace, not personal beliefs."
If you have any questions regarding laws or policies as they pertain to transgender employees, please feel free to contact Ahlers & Cooney, PC.
Ahlers & Cooney Labor and Employment Practice Group
- A prior Ahlers & Cooney Client Alert on Transgender Issues in the Workplace: http://www.ahlerslaw.com/news/detail.cfm?clientalerts=true&id=403
- EEOC Fact Sheet: https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/fs-bathroom-access-transgender.cfm
- OSHA Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3795.pdf
- Guidance from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/diversity-and-inclusion/reference-materials/gender-identity-guidance/
About Ahlers & Cooney's Client Alerts
Our Client Alerts are intended to provide occasional general comments on new developments in Federal and State law and regulations which we believe might be of interest to our clients. The Client Alerts should not be considered opinions of Ahlers & Cooney, P.C., and are not intended to provide legal advice as a substitute for seeking professional counsel. Readers should not under any circumstance act upon the information in this publication without seeking specific professional counsel. Ahlers & Cooney will be pleased to provide additional details regarding any article upon request. Additional copies of this Client Alert may be obtained by contacting any attorney in the Firm or by visiting the Firm's website at www.ahlerslaw.com.
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