Massachusetts has taken another step in protecting those who do not identify with the sex they were assigned at birth. Effective October 1, 2016, individuals will have the legal right to use restrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms that correspond to their gender identity, regardless of their assigned sex. Additionally, no place of public accommodation (any place that is open to and solicits the patronage of the general public) will be allowed to discriminate or advertise in a way that discriminates based on gender identity.

A violation of “An Act Relative to Transgender Anti-Discrimination” is punishable by a fine of not more than $100, imprisonment for not more than 30 days, or both.

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is tasked with promulgating regulations for the implementation of the new law, including when and how gender identity may be evidenced. The state Attorney General’s office is tasked with issuing guidance for referring anyone who asserts a gender identity for an improper purpose to the appropriate law enforcement agency. These regulations are expected to be published before October 1.

The Act is one of several measures by Massachusetts legislators designed to protect transgender rights. In 2012, Massachusetts added gender identity as a protected characteristic in laws against hate crimes and employment and housing discrimination.

In 2016, in addition to the Massachusetts law, measures to protect transgender people have been adopted by other states and municipalities across the United States. For examples, see our articles, New York State and New York City Guidance Focus Transgender Discrimination and Cleveland Law Allows Transgender Employees to Use Restroom Associated With Gender Identity.

Massachusetts employers should begin reviewing their policies and advertisements to ensure compliance with the new law when the Act becomes effective.

The most important measure Massachusetts employers can undertake immediately is to provide sufficient training to its management and employees. Jackson Lewis can assist employers with action plans and talking points to help managers with employees and patrons and to help employees with each other and patrons. Managers and employees must be taught how the law applies to your organization, what is expected from them, and the consequences for failing to abide by the Act.