EEOC Issues Guidance Regarding Workplace Restrooms

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On the one year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, the EEOC has issued new guidance to clarify whether employers can segregate workplace restrooms by gender or sex. While not law, this guidance instructs employers how the EEOC will handle sex discrimination charges under its purview.

In Bostock, the Court held that the “because of sex” language in Title VII extends protections to sexual orientation and transgender status. However, in the majority opinion, Justice Gorsuch made clear that the Court was not taking a position on the use of “private spaces” and left unresolved the question of whether employers could segregate restrooms by gender or sex.  

The EEOC’s guidance seeks to clarify confusion stemming from the Bostock decision. The new guidance directs employers that they must allow employees to use the bathroom, locker room, and/or shower that corresponds with their gender identity. Employers may not use anxiety, confusion, or discomfort on behalf of other coworkers as grounds to justify discriminatory policies. If an employer has unisex or single-use facilities, then the individuals can continue to use those as they currently do.  The EEOC has also created a consolidated webpage for resources addressing sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Interestingly, the guidance was not issued by the full Commission. Rather, the guidance was issued by the Chair of the EEOC and is considered non-binding guidance at the moment. However, employers should expect that the guidance will likely become binding in July 2022 when President Biden will be able to nominate a Democrat to the Commission, thus tilting the ideological majority of the Commission. The new majority may even expand upon Chair Burrows’ guidance.

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