The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit Sides with Transgender Students’ Rights

A three-judge panel decided, after less than 30 minutes of conferring, to uphold a male female sign_3decision from the District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

In 2016, Boyertown School District updated their school policy, allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity (rather than their anatomical sex). The school district also provided single-stall showers and single-stall bathrooms that students who felt uncomfortable using another bathroom could use.

This follows a pattern of similar cases. Most significantly, the 7th Circuit decided on May 30, 2017 that denying a transgender student the right to use the boys’ bathroom violated Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

The Boyertown case was brought about by Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative law firm representing students who felt uncomfortable having to share the bathroom with their transgender peers. The lawyers said that the change in policy violated cisgender students’ rights to privacy. This argument did not cut it with the Third Circuit Panel. They affirmed the lower court’s decision, calling it, “exceptionally well-reasoned.”

Ria Mar, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who was involved in the case, noted that the School District’s handling of the situation was appropriate. Allowing students to use the bathrooms of the genders with which they identify, as well as providing single-stall bathrooms as an option for students to use, rather than requiring them to use that separate single-stall bathroom, was the correct step to take.

So how does this affect your workplace? Here in Delaware, we already prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity.  But accommodating transgender employees in the workplace—especially with regard to bathroom use—continues to be divisive issues.  However, the trend in the case law is clear.  When you are faced with a conflict between transgender and cisgender employees, you should side with open bathroom access to the transgender employee.  If others object, provide them access to a single-stalled bathroom, just as the Boyertown School District did.