Respecting Caitlin Jenner and Her Community Under the Law
For some time now, California labor law has protected transgendered individuals from discrimination and harassment. However, a decision by the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento last spring held that denying transgender employees the right to use gender-identity appropriate facilities remains a violation of the state’s anti-discrimination laws, and other statutes entrenched in the California Labor Code.
That decision, released in March of 2014, held that transgendered employees in the state of California have the right to use gender-identity appropriate change room and washroom facilities in the state of California. Various other states have enacted similar updates to their laws.
Now, the Feds have finally entered the pool with an update to federal codes that mirror California and labor law, as well as similar laws in other jurisdictions related to transgendered individuals.
To that end, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on June 1 published A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers.
“The core principle is that all employees, including transgender employees, should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels, in a released statement. “OSHA’s goal is to assure that employers provide a safe and healthful working environment for all employees.”
The guide itself is detailed, but in sum, the rule is stated simply thus: if a female has transgendered, either emotionally or physically (or both) to male and therefore identifies as male, then that individual has the right and freedom to use the men’s washroom.
The same holds true for Bruce Jenner, who now identifies as Caitlin. It wasn’t that long ago that Jenner was being interviewed on national television about his story and his ongoing transition to female, the gender to which Jenner now identifies. This week, the release of the Caitlin Jenner photo shoot for the cover of Vanity Fair is a stark representation of what Jenner was revealing just a few weeks ago.
Therefore, applying the Bruce Jenner/Caitlin Jenner example to the rule of law, Bruce Jenner identifies as female now (as Caitlin Jenner) and thus, has the right to use the women’s washroom.
The OSHA guide, and the corresponding law, is founded upon the core belief that all employees in the workplace should be permitted, without retaliation, use of the facility that best matches his or her gender identification. At the end of the day, however, the OSHA guide notes that the employee should determine “the most appropriate and safest option for him - or herself.”
OSHA also identifies best polices that provide additional options that transgendered employees may choose, but are at the same time not a requirement. Such options, as available, could include: “Single-occupancy gender-neutral (unisex) facilities, and: Use of multiple-occupant, gender-neutral restroom facilities with lockable single occupant stalls.
“Under these best practices, employees are not asked to provide any medical or legal documentation of their gender identity in order to have access to gender-appropriate facilities,” states the guideline. “In addition, no employee should be required to use a segregated facility apart from other employees because of their gender identity or transgender status. Under OSHA standards, employees generally may not be limited to using facilities that are an unreasonable distance or travel time from the employee’s worksite.”
The guidelines also speak to the existence of local and state laws and statutes, such as California labor employment law, about which all employees should be conversant.
To summarize, transgendering has long passed the signpost of sensationalism. Rather, gender identification in any form has progressed from tolerance to widespread acceptance; and yet another indication of this is the release, this summer, of Becoming Us, an unscripted “docuseries” on ABC Family, documenting the life of 17-year-old Ben Lehwald of Evanston, Illinois. In the series, which is produced by Ryan Seacrest Productions, Ben’s father Charlie transitions to Carly. The narrative is told from Ben’s perspective as he watches his dad go through his divorce from Ben’s mom Suzy, before undergoing gender reassignment surgery.
In the grand scheme of things, washroom assignment (or reassignment) should be the least of a transgendered individual’s worries. Nonetheless, it is an issue that many states have been grappling with for some time - including California and labor law observed by the state. Now, the Department of Labor through the OSHA guideline will ensure that the rights of everyone are quite properly observed and respected behind the washroom stall.
Caitlin Jenner will use the women’s washroom. It’s only appropriate. And it’s also the law.