Restroom Access for Transgender Employees

Filed under: Workplace

Permit an employee to use sex-segregated facilities that correspond to his/her full-time gender presentation, regardless of what stage that person is in terms of his/her overall transition process.

Most people take reasonable access to restroom facilities for granted. However, transgender people often face the burden of being confronted or questioned about which gender's restroom they should use. Not having reasonable access to restrooms is a tremendous distraction that no employer should impose on its employees.

Legal Requirements

Employers are legally required to provide workers reasonable access to restroom facilities. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires that employers make toilet facilities available so that employees can use them when they need to do so, and the employer may not impose unreasonable restrictions on employee use of the facilities.

No federal, state or municipal laws or regulations specifically pertaining to gender identity require employers to utilize one type of bathroom over another, or to construct new facilities to accommodate transgender individuals.

However, some jurisdictions regulate aspects of these restrooms. For example, the District of Columbia requires single-occupant restroom facilities in any public space (e.g., restaurants) to be gender neutral -- restrooms designed for use by one individual at a time may not have a specific gender designation with "male" or "female" signage or icons -- but does not require employers to have single-occupant restrooms instead of another type.

Please note that other laws and regulations (unrelated to gender identity) governing commercial or public accommodations may require the use of one type of restroom over another.


Employers should grant unrestricted restroom access and use according to an employee's full-time gender presentation. No single solution will work for every worksite, however, all employers need to find solutions that are safe, convenient and respect transgender employees; working with your transgender employees to devise a practical and dignified solution to restroom access issues is essential.

  • Employees may use the restrooms that correspond with their full-time gender presentation. 
    An employee should never be required to use the restroom of his/her designated sex at birth once he /she has begun transitioning and has changed their full-time gender presentation.
  • A transitioning employee may opt to use single-occupancy or unisex facilities
    If available and reasonably accessible, single-occupancy or unisex facilities can serve as a temporary facility for transitioning employees during the transition process, but should not be a permanent solution.
  • Coworkers uncomfortable with a transgender employee’s use of the same restroom may use separate restroom facilities.

Reasonable Restroom Access Options

Employers' options for reasonable restroom access may be limited by the physical set-up of their office, industrial or retail facilities. Fortunately, any of the following options can be employed.

Multiple-occupant, gender-segregated restroom facilities with lockable single-occupant stalls
These are the most common type of bathroom, and should work for transgender employees and their colleagues. However, transgender people are often harassed for being perceived to be of a different gender from a particular bathroom's gender designation, particularly in public settings where the restrooms' users may not be accustomed to transgender people. When possible, gender-segregated facilities can be retrofitted to enhance privacy (see "Privacy in Restrooms" below) and can sometimes be paired by a single-occupant, gender-neutral facility when possible.

  • Single-occupant, gender-neutral restroom facilities.
    These one-room facilities are equipped with a sink, toilet and optional urinal, and typically exist in the form of family access bathrooms and bathrooms accessible to people with disabilities and are also available on airplanes, buses and at public events. Single-occupant restrooms should not be restricted to a specific gender, which can cause confusion when individuals are perceived to be of a different gender from the bathroom’s designation. Restricting single-occupant restrooms by gender can also unnecessarily cause people of the same gender to wait even while the restroom for the other gender is unoccupied.
  • Multiple-occupant, gender-neutral restroom facilities with lockable single-occupant stalls. 
    These facilities are generally modified versions of gender-segregated restroom facilities with enhanced privacy features. They help avoid confusion that can be caused if an individual is perceived to be of a different gender from a bathroom’s gender designation.

Privacy in Restrooms

Users of multiple-occupant restrooms might appreciate the following privacy enhancements:

  • Install flaps on the outer edge of stall doors to cover the gap between the door and the stall wall.
  • Extend stall doors and walls from floor to ceiling.
  • Extend privacy dividers between urinals further out from the wall, and to a higher level.

Locker Rooms

Ensure private shower and changing areas in locker rooms and other facilities using stalls or curtains. If this is not possible, provide the employee with alternative accommodations that maintain respect and dignity, such as:

  • use of a private area within the public area, such as a shower stall with a door or an area separated by a curtain;
  • a separate changing schedule in the public area; or
  • use of a nearby private area, such as a restroom.