Transgender rights are evolving quickly. On April 19, 2016, Target announced that transgender customers at its stores were welcome to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. While some hailed the company, others promised to boycott the store.
On March 23, 2016, North Carolina passed a bill defining biological sex as “the condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person’s birth certificate.” After a flurry of media coverage, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office filed a complaint against the State of North Carolina alleging the bill constitutes a pattern or practice of employment discrimination on the basis of sex, in violation of federal law.
Ohio has yet to step into the fray. Currently, there is no definitive case law in Ohio that speaks to the issue of sex stereotyping or discrimination against transgender persons in the workplace. However, given the publicity this issue has received in the past year, there is no doubt the issue will present itself in Ohio in the near future.
Those in favor of supporting transgender rights introduced the Ohio Fairness Act (OFA) in the Ohio House of Representatives. The OFA proposes to amend Ohio’s anti-discrimination laws to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as protected classes. Currently, there has been no further action regarding this bill since it was referred to the Committee in November 2015.
Ohio House Representative John Becker (Cincinnati) has announced plans to introduce legislation to “Prevent sexual predators from posing as transgender persons in order to gain easy access to a smorgasbord of women and young girls without disrupting the lives of well-meaning people…” To date, no legislation has been introduced.
In the meantime, federal regulators have already weighed in. In April 2015, for instance, the EEOC issued a groundbreaking ruling that an employer may not legally restrict an employee’s ability to use the restroom designated for the gender with which the employee identifies. Doing so was found to constitute disparate treatment based upon sex.
This material is not intended as legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. Those seeking legal advice should consult directly with legal counsel regarding their specific facts and circumstances.