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This is not legal advice, which can only be given by an attorney admitted to practice law in your jurisdiction after hearing all of the facts and circumstances in a particular case.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Transgender employees and outside facilities

We have discussed bathroom issues in this blog quite a bit, but all in the context of bathrooms inside the employer's facilities. What happens when the employee works outside the employer's facilities and has to use the bathroom?
It is an issue that should be considered when creating a transition plan. We have said that the plan should call for contacting the GTL (Gender Transition Leader) when the transitioning employee changes jobs or locations, but it should also call for GTL guidance when the employee works outside the employer's facilities.

This issue is highlighted by the story of Helena Stone, transgender woman and Verizon telephone technician, who was arrested three times over the past two years after using the women's restrooms at Grand Central Terminal, where she was assigned to repair pay phones. Her office in the building has no bathroom, so she was required to use the public restroom.

Stone - who has been transitioning to become a woman over the past 10 years and wears female clothing and make-up - was arrested twice in 2005 and once this year. She was charged with disorderly conduct each time. She said that during one arrest, an MTA cop called her 'a freak, a weirdo and the ugliest woman in the world.' This past January, the third time she was arrested, three male MTA cops entered the women's restroom, searched Stone, then told her she didn't belong there before she was cuffed.

The MTA has dropped all criminal charges against Stone, and reached a settlement on her civil suit, in which the MTA committed to allow people to use the restroom for whichever gender they consider themselves. The agreement also calls for the MTA to sponsor a transgender sensitivity training program for its employees.

One of the intentions of human resources policies, including transgender workplace policies, is to ensure a positive and harmonious workplace environment. Employers who have employees transitioning on the job should look to see if they are working offsite. If so, part of the transition plan should include interfacing with those offsite facilities to locate appropriate bathrooms for their personnel. I note that safe bathrooms within a reasonable distance is a requirement of the OSHA workrules. Failure to arrange for this could result in unsafe working conditions.

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