On July 8, 2016, Massachusetts Governor Charles Baker signed Senate Bill 2407 “an Act relative to transgender anti-discrimination” which bars discrimination against transgender persons in places of public accommodation. The law takes effect on October 1, 2016.
Under the new law, transgender people cannot be discriminated against in places of public accommodation because of their gender identity. Transgender persons will also be allowed to use the bathroom or locker room corresponding with their gender identity. Additionally, the law explicitly prohibits the use of gender identity for an improper purpose and includes a provision requiring the Attorney General to develop guidelines for law enforcement on addressing improper claims of gender identity.
On October 1, 2016, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (“MCAD”) will begin enforcing the new law. By September 1, 2016, it must issue rules and regulations designed to accomplish the law’s goals. Specifically, the MCAD must issue rules to determine exactly how and when the sincerity of one’s gender identity can be “proven” to merit protection under the law.
Implications for Employers
As most Massachusetts employers are aware, Massachusetts has prohibited discrimination against transgender people in employment and housing since 2011. The new law simply expands these protections to include all places of public accommodation.
However, the law does have some implications for Massachusetts employers. First and foremost, employees must be allowed to use the restroom or locker room that corresponds with their gender identity. Employers are also reminded that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated that employers may not require transgender employees to use a unisex bathroom, and that doing so may be a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Additionally, businesses that are considered places of public accommodation, such as retail stores, restaurants, and hotels, may not refuse service to a person because of their gender identity. Employers should inform employees who have consumer contact of this new requirement and provide training if necessary.