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Massachusetts Passes Transgender Accommodations Law

By August 24, 2016 No Comments

On July 11, 2016, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed into law the Transgender Accommodations bill. The new law, which takes effect on October 1, 2017, will allow transgender people and those currently transitioning to a different gender to use public facilities including restrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity, regardless of their sex at birth. The law will also protect individuals from discrimination in “public accommodations,” meaning businesses used by the public, such as restaurants, hotels, and retail stores.

Massachusetts already has an antidiscrimination law protecting individuals from employment discrimination based on gender identity (An Act Relative to Gender Identity, passed in 2012). Employers should now be prepared to update their policies and practices to allow anyone to use the restroom or other public facility that corresponds with their gender identity. They should also ensure that managers are provided with training to understand the new regulations.

We are often asked by employers how best to support transgender employees and those who are transitioning. If an employee announces they are planning to transition to another gender, we recommend that you schedule an interactive discussion with them to plan for their transition and make them feel as comfortable as possible at work. During this conversation, you should respect the employee’s privacy and refrain from asking medical or other questions regarding the transition; instead, focus on coming up with a plan for how they would like their transition to be handled in the workplace.

For example, ask your employee for their preferred name and what pronoun they would like you to use in referring to them. Ask them how they would like you to inform the staff of their transition. Also, be sure to let them know that while you respect their choice and will use their chosen name and pronoun on such documents as proposals, business cards, and email addresses, their legal name is required to be on personnel records, including payroll records and needs to match the name on their Social Security card. If, however, they provide you with a revised Social Security card, you will need to change these records accordingly.

We are here to help you implement these changes. Please feel free to contact us for assistance or if you have any questions regarding this new legislation.