From Bathrooms To Body Art: Emerging Issues In Employment Law

unisex lavatory restroom toilet

unisex lavatory restroom toiletIn-house lawyers mostly wear many hats, generally during smaller companies with medium authorised departments (and budgets). One common hat: conduct of tellurian resources. Given a web of formidable sovereign and state laws per labor and employment, tasking a warn with this duty creates sense. But a changing landscape of use law can make portion in this purpose challenging, generally if a in-house warn contingency juggle HR duties with other responsibilities.

In-house warn with an seductiveness in use law flocked to “From Body Art to Unisex Bathrooms: Changing Workplaces, Changing Employment Laws,” an didactic row during a 2016 Annual Meeting of a Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC). It featured a following speakers:

  • Oswald Cousins, Partner, Miller Law Group
  • Lisa Hamasaki, Partner, Miller Law Group
  • Katherine Kettler, Director, HR Legal Investigations, Intel Corporation
  • David Warren, Assistant General Counsel, MetLife

The useful and useful row proceeded by proceed of several hypotheticals. In that spirit, I’m going to structure this story in a QA format.

Issues of gender and sex are, as a authorised matter, increasingly tricky. Even a vernacular is changing; difference like “transvestite” and “hermaphrodite” are no longer acceptable, for example. What should we do if we make a mistake in referring to or addressing a sold employee?

Apologize, teach yourself (lots of online resources are accessible by organizations like a Human Rights Campaign), and try to do improved subsequent time. Make certain that your corporate guidelines, handbooks, and other resources are adult to date. Communication and gripping people gentle are key. It’s totally excellent to ask employees how they would like to be addressed (e.g., that gender pronouns they prefer).

Title VII prohibits taste in a workplace based on sex. It would clearly ban, for example, cultured opposite an worker since she’s a woman. But what about requiring this worker to benefaction herself in a some-more delicate matter? That’s not illegally cultured opposite her since she’s a woman, it’s usually seeking her to urge her self-presentation — right?

Wrong. That’s not authorised underneath Title VII. In Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins (1989), a Supreme Court hold that gender stereotyping is actionable as sex discrimination. The Hopkins box concerned a lady who claimed that she was deserted for partnership during PWC since she didn’t follow a supervisor’s recommendation to “walk some-more femininely, speak some-more femininely, dress some-more femininely, wear make-up, have her hair styled, and wear jewelry.” She prevailed before SCOTUS.

Title VII prohibits sex taste — yet what about passionate orientation? Does that count?

Courts are split on either Title VII relates to passionate orientation. But a EEOC takes a position that Title VII bans taste formed on gender temperament or passionate orientation, and a series of states and localities, including New York and California, demarcate taste formed on passionate orientation. So it’s safest to ensue on a arrogance that sexual-orientation taste is banned, generally if we have employees in opposite jurisdictions.

What about gender dysphoria (formerly famous as gender temperament disorder)? Can a transgender chairman sue for use discrimination?

This emanate is still being hashed out by a courts. The position of a EEOC is that taste formed on transgender standing is sex taste in defilement of Title VII.

What about a Americans With Disabilities Act and gender dysphoria?

There is a carveout in a ADA for gender dysphoria; a Act provides that “transsexualism” is not a incapacity for functions of a ADA. But this is being challenged in litigation, and some of a panelists likely that a carveout could be altered or separated in a future.

Let’s plead a stream prohibited emanate of bathrooms for transgender individuals. Imagine you’re a warn for a association with a transgender employee, Julia. Your offices have men’s rooms, women’s rooms, and a single-user restroom. Should we (a) tell Julia that she should use a single-user restroom, (b) need her to yield medical acceptance before vouchsafing her use a women’s room, or (c) tell her she can use a restroom that corresponds to her gender identity?

The scold answer is (c). An employer can’t need a transgender chairman to use a single-user trickery yet also giving them a choice to use a lavatory that corresponds with their gender identity. You also can’t need medical documentation. If another worker objects to Julia regulating a women’s room, we can advise to a angry worker that they use a single-user facility. For some-more info, see a EEOC fact piece on bathroom entrance rights for transgender employees.

Can an employer have unisex or gender-neutral restrooms (a la Ally McBeal)?

Yes. According to a Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) best practices, it’s excellent to have “multiple-occupant, gender-neutral restroom comforts with lockable singular passenger stalls.” You usually can’t forestall a transgender chairman from regulating a restroom that conforms to their gender identity.

What about Title VII and eremite belief?

Title VII prohibits taste formed on religion. The large emanate in these cases is mostly accommodation; as a EEOC explains, an employer can decrease to accommodate “an employee’s unequivocally hold eremite beliefs or practices [if] a accommodation would levy an undue hardship (more than a minimal weight on operation of a business).”

It also violates Title VII for an employer to exclude to sinecure an applicant since a employer wanted to equivocate carrying to accommodate an employee’s eremite practice. That was a holding of a Supreme Court in a new box of EEOC v. Abercrombie Fitch (in an opinion authored by a late Justice Antonin Scalia). Abercrombie concerned a risque retailer’s refusal to sinecure a Muslim woman since of her eremite use of wearing a hijab.

Jeez, it sounds like an employer can’t do anything. What about a workplace dress formula that prohibits carrying manifest tattoos, that some people (read: customers) find off-putting?

Are a tattoos eremite in nature? If so, afterwards that competence be a problem. See EEOC v. Red Robin.

Wow. Well, can an worker afterwards get around a workplace process banning manifest tattoos or certain forms of physique piercings by claiming to go to a “Church of Body Modification” (CBM)?

Okay, that’s a bit most — and an worker perplexing to take such a position mislaid in a First Circuit box of Cloutier v. Costco Wholesale Corp. But note that she didn’t remove since a justice noticed a “Church of Body Modification” as a joke; as forked out by a court, a CBM was founded in 1999 and claims approximately 1,000 members (check out a website, that denies that a church is unequivocally usually “a loophole to keep people from being dismissed from their job”). The justice insincere a legitimacy of a CBM for a consequence of evidence yet postulated outline visualisation to Costco since sum grant from a policy, a usually accommodation that Cloutier would accept, “would levy an undue hardship on Costco.”

So a upshot of all this seems to be “employer loses and worker wins, unless worker is totally unreasonable” — is that correct? And if so, how is that satisfactory to employers, or to in-house lawyers perplexing to paint them?

It’s positively loyal that some areas of use law are relocating in a instruction of plaintiffs, and employers and their warn need to be some-more clever than ever. In many cases, a safest proceed for an employer is to permit to an employee’s request, generally if that ask is teenager or reasonable; that’s one proceed of avoiding a ghost of litigation.

At a finish of a day, though, in-house lawyers who hoop use law shouldn’t remove nap over these matters. They are all issues that reasonable employers and employees, behaving in good faith and with common sense, should be means to work out.

2016 ACC Annual Meeting [Association of Corporate Counsel]

David Lat is a owner and handling editor of Above a Law and a author of Supreme Ambitions: A Novel. You can bond with David on Twitter (@DavidLat), LinkedIn, and Facebook, and we can strech him by email during

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