Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking before the Connecticut Bar Association’s LGBT Section regarding the status of transgender claims along with CHRO Staff Attorney Alix Simonetti. My thanks to the section for the invitation. It didn’t hurt that it was held at the Hartford Flavor Company, either.
The talk was mainly informal but it was a lively discussion of some of the critical components of the law over the last few years.
Back in 2011 (seems so long ago, right?), the Connecticut General Assembly passed a wide-ranging bill protecting gender identity and expression. The impact of the law was debated back then. Would it be significant? Would it lead to an increase in claims?
Well, the answer to the first question is yes, it’s been significant because the issue of transgender discrimination has moved ever more into the mainstream with Caitlyn Jenner making headlines and shows like “Transparent” receiving critical acclaim. Connecticut looks downright ahead of its time.
But the claims haven’t really appeared.
There have been just 15 or so gender-identity in employment discrimination claims filed with the state agency (CHRO) since the law’s inception.
Why? The reasons can be debated — perhaps fear, lack of awareness, an improving economy? — but the claims represent just a tiny fraction of the 7500+ claims filed over that time.
The issue, however, that seems to get the most press is restroom access.
Indeed, we’re now getting federal guidance on how to deal with the issue of restroom access. That remains one of the bigger issues (a proposition up on a Houston ballot turned into an ugly campaign of “No Men in Women’s Bathrooms”) but it doesn’t seem again to translate to claims filed.
OSHA’s guidance over the summer suggests keeping it simple: Employees should have access to the restroom that corresponds to his or her gender identity. Period. If other employees complain, well, that’s not a good enough reason to deny access to the transgendered employee.
But there are other best practices, such as making single-occupant bathrooms gender-neutral (think family restrooms in stadiums and airports) that are suggested as well.
Some employers may not have had to address the issue yet. But being aware of the issues ahead of time — and figuring out how you will tackle them — is something that should be on the radar for 2016.