Dealing with the Transgender “Bathroom Issue”


Dealing with the Transgender “Bathroom Issue”


Of all the issues you must address with a transgender (TG) hire or transition in your workplace, the bathroom issue is probably the most obvious surface issue, and is also the one that will generate the most discussion and potential resistance from current employees.   Actions you undertake will fall into two categories, 1.) Physical, and 2.) Training/Culture.    


First, separate but equal accommodations are not to the letter of the law. As a corollary, think of “Black” and “White only” restrooms.   Enough said on that.   If your workplace has single toilet restrooms, you can simply change the “men” and “women” signs to the “men/women” or unisex signs.     Many small businesses and small offices have these facilities, and aside from transgender employee compliance, this is good for your transgender customers and will also equalize wait times for women who generally require longer bathroom stays.   For multiple facility restrooms, attention to properly installed doors and general privacy barriers are important and should be upgraded if complete privacy is not afforded.   An example is installing stall walls and doors that are lower to the ground and higher to the ceiling. Since this does not involve changing walls or plumbing, these changes can be done at minimal cost and your employees will likely appreciate a bathroom upgrade anyway.   It should be noted that changing a single restroom to unisex in a large factory complex is not compliant; a TG employee should find it as easy to get to, and use, a restroom as any non-TG employee.    


Training is absolutely necessary.   It is very likely that some employees will object to a TG employee using their bathroom.   We must of course protect TG rights, but we must also be cognizant of the fears and concerns of all the other employees as well. This is not to say in any way that TG rights need to be sacrificed; it simply means that we must do our best to not alienate the rest of the workforce while we integrate TG employees.   Employees should be assured that the existing company policy of privacy within a stall is being maintained, and will continue to be enforced.     This policy applies to all employees.   If your company doesn’t have such a policy, it is simple to adopt one and generally will preclude anyone from peering over stalls, utilizing camera phones under stall walls, or having sex in stalls.   It should be emphasized that this policy is not a result of hiring a TG employee but rather as a reminder to all employees that bathroom decorum is a common sense policy.   Employees should be reminded that the common areas of the restroom are exactly as the name implies, and that activities like hand washing, hair combing, and makeup application are all activities done in public. For example, are you worried that a man will see you doing your eyeliner in your car?   If concern persists, one of my favorite techniques is to say: “Examine this sentence: “I would be uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a TG person.” Now substitute the word “black” for TG and have employees say it out loud.    “I would be uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a black person.”   Hopefully, most people are sensitive to racial discrimination and will see the connection of past racial discrimination to current TG discrimination feelings.     Of course, including comprehensive employee training on TG issues is a good practice; however if that is not possible, then an hour long presentation or seminar should be done at a minimum.   The goal should be to educate employees on TG issues such that they won’t feel threatened by the inclusion of TG employees, and hopefully see the many positive benefits that the inclusion of a TG individual will have on the company’s diversity and performance.   Often, the concern is expressed at male to female (MtF) transgendered individuals in women’s restrooms.   Training should include a good mix of facts, advocacy, and light humor.     As they say, you can’t judge a person who hasn’t walked a mile in your five inch designer open toed platform pumps, and ladies, MtF transgendered individuals have. Give them a chance; you might be pleasantly bored at how much they are just like your other girlfriend coworkers. Remember, gender resides in the brain.  


Posted on July 17, 2014, in Civil Rights, Management & Business, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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