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Friday, April 8, 2016

North Carolina Now Requires Men To Use Your Employer's Ladies' Room

If you work in North Carolina, be warned: your employer now has to require men to use the ladies' room. Not all men, but some men. These men have beards, mustaches, and yes, penises. But they have to use the ladies' room due to a new law just signed by your governor. And if you're a business, you are now legally required to humiliate some customers and allow others to be frightened. This law was meant to attack the LGBT community, but it will have some unintended consequences.

As I sat writing this I looked over one of the most beautiful vistas on the planet. You see, I was on vacation in North Carolina, a place I truly love. The people here are so nice. So what the heck is going on with the North Carolina legislature? How did this lovely place turn into the epicenter of a nasty anti-LGBT potty obsession?

While I was on vacation enjoying spring in the mountains, the North Carolina legislature enacted an ugly set of laws attacking the LGBT community. The worst of these is a law requiring businesses to only allow people to use the restroom designated for their "biological sex" defined as "The physical condition of being male or female, which is stated on a person's birth certificate."

So let's think about the effect of this really stupid bill.  Here are just some of the ridiculous consequences that will result:

  • You're a business owner. A major client was born male but dresses as a female, considers herself female, and has had the operation to become female. You can't let her use the ladies' room. Bye, bye client.
  • You're in the ladies' room. A person who dresses like a male, has a beard, and a low voice enters the ladies' room. Oh, yeah. He has a penis. It turns out the male was born female. Not only do you have to let him use the facility, but the business owner can't try to prevent this. 
  • You were born male but dress as a female. You consider yourself female. Your coworkers and boss have accepted you as a female. Your employer can't let you use the ladies' room. You have to use the men's room, explain to customers why you are in the men's room, and risk being attacked in the men's room by anyone who is either homophobic or just a rapist. 
  • You're an employer. Your employee is a female who identifies as male. He dresses like a male, has taken hormones that cause him to have a beard, and goes by a male name. You have to require him to use the ladies' room. Your female employees object and say it's sexual harassment to have him there. Female customers object. You're damned if you do and damned if you don't let him use the men's room. 
  • Your top female customer has a male autistic child age 7. You have to stop her from taking him in the restroom with her because the law has an exemption only for children under age 7 to accompany an adult of the opposite sex. She has to leave this child unaccompanied outside the restroom if she really has to go.

As a female who identifies as female, I really don't appreciate the North Carolina legislature telling me that I have to share the ladies' room with a female-born who identifies as a male. As a parent, I don't appreciate the legislature telling parents they have to leave their children unaccompanied if they need to use the facilities. As a business owner, I wouldn't appreciate the North Carolina legislature telling me I have to humiliate a client or an employee.

The good news is that this is a law with zero teeth. The North Carolina legislature included no penalties in the law for violations. There is no criminal or civil penalty if you break this law. What are business supposed to do? Demand to see a birth certificate before entry to the restroom? There is absolutely no way for businesses to practically monitor their restrooms to enforce this law. Plus, business risk violating federal anti-discrimination laws if they enforce this new law.

My advice to the transgendered: use the restroom you feel comfortable in. My advice to parents: take the kid with you. My advice to employers: don't get involved in employee potty issues. They just want to pee.

If you're transgender and want to understand your rights in North Carolina, talk to an employment lawyer in your state.