The controversy surrounding the use of gender-neutral bathrooms in schools has been widely publicized in recent months, as schools in several states have challenged the federal directive to provide gender-neutral bathrooms to their students.
For business owners in Georgia analyzing this issue, it’s important to learn more about how Georgia employment law addresses this issue and how businesses can best provide a comfortable environment for their employees and customers. Thus, the purpose of this article is to examine the question as to whether or not workplaces in Georgia are required to provide gender-neutral bathrooms to employees.
Committing to OSHA Guidelines
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) prohibits employers from placing “unreasonable restrictions” on an employee’s access to bathrooms. The OSHA guidelines also state that restrooms must be accessible to those in wheelchairs and others with mobility challenges.
OSHA Mandates Gender Segregated Restrooms
Under current OSHA guidelines, organizations with more than 15 employees must provide their staff with gender-segregated facilities. The bathrooms should be designated as being for male or female use, unless the bathroom can be occupied by no more than one person and can be locked from the inside of the room.
Gender Neutral Bathrooms Not Required
Currently, 18 states have employment laws that protect employees specifically on the basis of gender identity. While this is not the case in Georgia currently, companies can certainly begin to implement policies that will make their facilities more suitable for transgender individuals in the future. With the latest directive from the federal government stating that transgender students should be allowed to use the bathroom that matches their identity, schools are now at risk of losing federal funding if they fall out of compliance on this issue. Other entities receiving federal funding will not likely be far behind.
Public Policy is Moving Toward Gender Neutral Workplaces
While Georgia is one of the states fighting the latest federal directive, communities across the country are steadily becoming more educated, tolerant and accepting of transgendered individuals. This will inevitably lead to workplaces that are more diverse across Georgia and changes to Georgia employment law. Local companies might consider how they will meet the needs of transgender team members in their offices. Providing gender-neutral restroom spaces could be a great way to begin this process.
For business leaders, it’s critical to maintain a current understanding of the latest employment laws governing employee rights. At The Bowen Law Group, we encourage all of our clients to be on the vanguard of tolerance and acceptance toward all employees and customers. Not only is such positive change inevitable, opening your business up to any potential charge of discrimination is a poor business practice.