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Employers urged by OSHA to provide appropriate restroom access to transgender employees

In 2002, the New York City Human Rights Law was amended to prohibit discrimination based on a person's "actual or perceived gender." The Guidelines Regarding Gender Identity Discrimination further clarify the purpose and scope of the law, including the protections it provides to transgender people.

One aspect of the guidelines addresses transgender individuals' access to restrooms. The law provides that people may use restrooms that correspond with their gender identity. To prevent someone from using a restroom that is consistent with his or her gender identity is a form of discrimination that could occur with regard to a public restroom or a workplace restroom.

Not every state or city in the United States provides such legal protections to transgender people, and the federal government recently issued the Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers as a way of urging employers to avoid discriminatory practices.

The guide, which is a set of best practices and not a law, was developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA said specifically that transgender people's access to restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity is a both a civil rights issue and a health issue.

As the agency put it, "Restricting employees to using only restrooms that are not consistent with their gender identity, or segregating them from other workers by requiring them to use gender-neutral or other specific restrooms, singles those employees out and may make them fear for their physical safety."

To learn more about fighting discrimination in New York workplaces, please see Serrins Fisher LLP's sex and gender discrimination overview. 

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