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Paul Zimmerman
pzimmerman@mrllp.com
(310) 564.2670

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Transgender Bathroom Laws in California: What Employers Need to Know

The rights and civil liberties of transgender people have become an important topic openly discussed and debated nationwide. Clearly, the issues confronting the transgender community are many, but it seems press coverage has boiled its plight down to a rather narrow question: which public restroom should transgender men, women, boys and girls use?

State governments have weighed in, some enacting controversially restrictive laws that have led to consumer boycotts – can you say North Carolina? The Trump administration has made its voice heard, rescinding guidance that came under former President Obama instructing schools to allow transgender students access to bathrooms and other facilities that aligned with their gender identity.

As society comes to grips with transgender issues, it is important that businesses here in California fully understand the status of relevant access laws. Toward that end, I offer this rather brief overview – brief because the law is very straightforward and narrow in scope.

Effective March 1, 2017, any business establishment having a single-use bathroom – one having “no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user” – must identify that bathroom as “all gender.” (Health and Safety Code §118600.)

In the wake of this relatively new law, employers must ensure that their bathroom signage is in compliance. Doing so is as simple as this: equipping all single-user restrooms with unisex geometric signage that is tactile (can be read by touch) and indicates the facility as all-gender, unisex or just a restroom (without reference to gender). This must be done whether or not any given employer has transgender employees. To be clear, the unisex symbol (as required by the California Building Code) is a triangle superimposed onto a circle.

That is it; there is nothing too complicated about compliance. The law only applies to single-user facilities, and companies with such bathrooms have nothing more to do toward compliance if they already have unisex geometric signs in place.

No doubt, LGBT issues extend far beyond bathroom access (and the scope of this blog post). That said, employers that may have been unclear about the impact of the transgender bathroom law in California now know the long and short of it. Of course, should you have any remaining questions, Michelman & Robinson, LLP is here to help.

This blog post is not offered as, and should not be relied on as, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice in specific situations.