Federal Transgender Bathroom Requirements Conflict With Local Codes

Aug 24, 2016

Conflicting code requirements make compliance difficult for contractors and owners.

According to a recent study, “about 1.4 million adults in [this] country identify as transgender.” www.latimes.com

The federal government has stipulated that transgender individuals be allowed to use the public restroom that identifies with the gender of their choice. Some states and municipalities require these individuals to use the bathrooms that identify with their gender at birth.

There is no single national requirement for providing bathroom access for transgender individuals. This can make it difficult for owners and contractors to comply with building requirements.

This challenge is compounded by the fact that some municipal and state building codes conflict with each other.

An article in Burnham Nationwide by Leah Riley examines this issue. Ms. Riley’s article discusses the various local laws that affect single-occupancy public restrooms. (Transgender requirements for multi-stall bathrooms in federal or federally supported buildings, such as schools, pose a different set of issues.)

“Code requirements, such as those found in plumbing and accessibility codes, may present conflicts with the gender-neutral bathroom requirement. For example, some states and municipal plumbing codes mandate all bathrooms fixtures be gender specific.”

In many municipalities the solution is simple and inexpensive—installing signs indicating a bathroom is gender neutral.

In other locations, such as Evanston and Highland Park, Ill., where state plumbing codes and local ordinances conflict, compliance is more complicated.

This is an issue that will be resolved as the country adjusts to the new gender-neutral requirements for public bathrooms. Hopefully, there will eventually be uniform code specifications that apply to all jurisdictions throughout the country.

In the meantime, contractors must work with local code officials to ensure their buildings are in compliance with local as well as federal requirements.


What’s at stake in the latest battle over bathroom rights for transgender students, Paul J. Weber, L. A. Times.com, August 14, 2016.

Gender-Neutral Bathrooms: Code Conflicts? Leah Riley, BURNHAM, August 10, 2016.