During our wedding reception, my grandmother inadvertently went in the men’s restroom.  When she came out of a stall, Tami’s grandfather was there using a urinal.  My grandmother promptly scolded him for being in her restroom.  It was only when he pointed out the urinals that she realized she was in the male restroom. That incident became the worst kept secret for the rest of the reception.

As an employer, directing employees to the correct restroom seems to be pretty straightforward.  To some degree, it still is.  Even though opinions in different states vary greatly, the EEOC has been pretty clear on what they expect.  Their advice?  Employees should use the restroom of the gender with which they currently identify.  In addition, they state that employers should not require transgender employees to utilize unisex restrooms or to go to restrooms that are located away from where they work.

So what do you do if you live in a state, like Michigan, that hasn’t provided guidance on this, or, in a state like North Carolina that has specifically banned the use of restrooms that don’t match your anatomy?  Our advice is to follow the EEOC guidelines no matter where you are located.  Frankly, the EEOC is your biggest threat of legal action.  They have made enforcement of these regulations a priority.

The current hodge-podge of local and state laws is likely to be resolved in the courts within the near future.  Based on the decision of the same sex marriage case, we’re betting that the position of the EEOC will eventually become the consistent expectation going forward.

You will have some employees who will be uncomfortable with this decision.  Be understanding, but firm.  If privacy is the concern, encourage them to use a stall.

We’re encouraging our customers to treat all employees equally and with respect.  An inclusive work environment is never created by marginalizing any group of employees.

Besides, this may be a great opportunity to see more fun socks at the bottom of the stall next to you.

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