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Gendered bathroom guidelines

gender signs

Question:

One of our bouncers asked a man walking into the lady’s room to leave—only to later discover that the guest was in fact a woman. Now the woman and her friends are blowing up our social media and Yelp reviews saying we are homophobic and prejudiced. I don’t think it’s hurt our numbers but I’m worried it could.  I can take care of the employee discipline issue but what policies can we put in place to prevent this from happening?

– Casual Dining/Bar, Scranton, Pa.

Answer:

Gender is a social construct and has been evolving. There are people who identify as men and women but also people who do not, are transitioning, or are gender non-conforming. Gendered restrooms also create challenges for people who may need assistance from a companion or caregiver of a different gender. As the essence of hospitality is to welcome, gendered restrooms create stress and an unwelcome environment for some guests, as the incident with your bouncer shows.

While none of the complexity of gender is new, the awareness and openness with which it’s being discussed on a national scale is a positive change. Some municipalities have legislated for gender-neutral restrooms in new construction or in existing single-stall facilities. Others are making the decision voluntarily to be more inclusive.

In terms of creating a welcoming environment moving forward, I think there are two key pieces that need to happen:

  • Employee diversity training. Making all guests feel welcome is simply better business and is also an important risk management strategy to avoid lawsuits or bad press.
  • Gender-neutral restrooms. Whether this is an existing restroom appropriately labeled or a new addition, if feasible, putting in a gender-neutral restroom allows all guests to be comfortable.

More on gender-neutral restroom guidelines here.

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