February 18, 2016 at 8:00 am EST | by Chris Johnson
Calif. instructs employers to allow trans workers bathroom access

California transgender, gay news, Washington Blade

California has issued new guidance for transgender workers. (Image by Darwinek with modification; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The California agency charged with enforcing the state’s civil rights law on Wednesday made public new guidance to make clear employers are required to allow trans workers to use restroom facilities consistent with their gender identity.

In addition to stipulating employers must let transgender employees have access in correspondence with their gender identity to restroom, shower, locker room and other such facilities, the guidance — published by the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing — suggests providing individual or unisex restrooms to enhance privacy for all employees.

Kevin Kish, director of the California Department of Fair Employment & Housing, said the guidance makes clear to California employers their duty under state law. As the Los Angeles-based LGBT newspaper Frontiers reported in 2014, Kish is openly gay.

“Under California law, all employees have the right to use restroom and locker room facilities that correspond to their gender identity, regardless of their assigned sex at birth,” Kish said.

The guidance is made public at a time when the issue of transgender people using the restroom consistent with their gender identity has become a controversial topic across the nation. Bills restricting access of transgender student to public restrooms are pending in state legislatures across the country, including South Dakota, where such a bill is headed to the desk of Gov. Dennis Daugaard.

Although the guidance is based on California law, it’s consistent with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In April 2015, the EEOC in the case of Lusardi v. McHugh found prohibiting transgender people from using the bathroom in the workplace consistent with their gender identity amounts to gender discrimination under current law.

Tico Almeida, president of the LGBT group Freedom to Work, hailed the California guidance in a statement as a boon for transgender workers.

“California is getting the law right while South Dakota is on the verge of harming transgender people with an enormous step backwards for basic fairness,” Almeida said. “We applaud Director Kish and the California agency for issuing important legal protections to make sure transgender employees get treated fairly at work.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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