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OSHA issues best practices for providing restrooms for transgender workers

July 13, 2015 Transgender employees should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity, according to the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

On June 1, OSHA released its best practices for providing restroom access to transgender workers. This includes providing employees with a safe and sanitary restroom that they're comfortable using in accordance with their gender identity.

"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," according to the OSHA best practices document. "Bathroom restrictions can result in employees avoiding using restrooms entirely while at work, which can lead to potentially serious physical injury or illness."

OSHA encourages employers to also provide employees with additional restroom choices, including single-occupancy gender-neutral facilities and the use of multiple occupant, gender-neutral restroom facilities with lockable single occupant stalls.

The guidance may have a low impact on dental practices with unisex restrooms. The OSHA Sanitation Standard generally does not require employers to have separate restrooms for each sex if the restrooms are occupied by no more than one person at a time and can be locked from the inside. For more information, see the OSHA Sanitation Standard at osha.gov.

Under these best practices, employees should not be asked to provide any medical or legal documentation of their gender identity in order to access gender-appropriate facilities, OSHA says. In addition, no employee should be required to use a segregated facility because of their gender identity or transgender status nor should they have to travel an unreasonable distance from their worksite, OSHA said.

Employers who ignore these recommendations may risk citations. The Occupational Safety and Health Act prohibits employers from retaliating against any employee who exercises their rights under the law, including raising a health or safety concern or filing an OSHA complaint.

Employers should also be aware of any state or local laws pertaining to this issue. For more information, visit osha.gov.