How do you handle the following matter?
You are the owner of a successful small business. One of your long-time employees has recently gone through a sex change operation, from male to female. Or, from Bobby to Bobbie.
Arriving back to work, Bobbie decides to give the ladies restroom a try. Immediately, the female co-workers come to you complaining about it. Likewise, Bobbie feels the tension, and advises you that any discrimination could lead to a possible lawsuit.
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First off, the answer to this will depend to some degree on where your business is located. There are some states of the US which have laws protecting the rights of transgendered people. Bobbie’s threats of lawsuits would be more of a worry in those states than in other states. However, even in those states, it is not at all clear what the law has to say about the use of restrooms. Therefore, it is not clear that you would be legally vulnerable if you “discriminate” against Bobbie.
That said, it seems to me that the thing to do in this case is to try to get both sides to see the issue from the other’s point of view. There is no way that both sides will be happy unless you do this. If you simply order the women to accept Bobbie’s use of the women’s restrooms, they will be unhappy. Bobbie will be unhappy if you simply order her to use the men’s room (the male workers will likely be unhappy as well).
The best thing to do is to discuss the issue with everyone involved. You might encourage Bobbie to explain that she is now female in terms of her external anatomy and in terms of her hormones. You might encourage her to tell the women that she is not sexually interested in women. You might encourage Bobbie to be understanding as well. You might encourage her to realize that it is hard for her coworkers to adjust to such a big change.
In this situation, a conciliatory approach that centers around understanding is more likely to work than a legalistic one that centers around people’s rights.
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