Yesterday morning, I was interviewed by Gina Mangieri from KHON2 news about a pending lawsuit and charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission by a state employee from the Public Safety Department that alleged she was discriminated against because of her gender identity. The employee is a transgender individual who identifies herself as a female. Her lawsuit alleged she was denied access to the women’s restroom, and instead, was assigned the use of a “gender-neutral” restroom at her workplace.
During the interview, I explained that while Hawaii does have a relatively new law that prohibits employment discrimination based on an individual’s gender identity or expression, the law is not entirely clear on what types of workplace accommodations (if any) must be provided for transgender employees. For example, unlike Hawaii discrimination law on disability and pregnancy, there are no Administrative Rules that address accommodations for transgender employees.
I also clarified, however, that there is a growing national trend of court decisions ruling that employers should allow employees to use a restroom based on the employee’s perceived gender. Therefore, employers who want to take the safe approach to this issue should follow the national trend. At the same time, none of those court decisions are from Hawaii – therefore, while they may be instructive and provide some guidance on how to handle these types of situations, they are definitely not binding on any Hawaii employers.
The story was featured on the 10 o’clock news last night. You can view a news clip of the story on the KHON2 website here: Transgender Employee Sues State for Discrimination.
This was my first time meeting Gina, and she seemed like a really intelligent and personable reporter. Here’s a photo of us standing outside HEC’s offices.