Walgreens has instituted a new policy that protects its employees and customers from discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression/presentation.
The chain-wide policy follows an incident last summer when a woman was denied access to the women’s room at a Los Angeles store.
On her way to LA Pride last summer, Jessie Meehan stopped by a Walgreens store and asked to use the restroom. An employee told her she’d only be allowed to use the men’s room because she “looked like a man.” The experience left Meehan “humiliated and upset,” and when she got to the Pride event, she recounted the exchange to representatives from the ACLU of Southern California. In response, the group worked with Walgreens to arrive at the solution announced this week: an inclusive policy that impacts all 8,000 stores nationwide.
The new policy specifically states, “All individuals have a right to use restroom facilities that correspond to the individual’s gender identity, regardless of the individual’s sex assigned at birth.”
It likewise makes clear that “employees have a right to work in an environment free of verbal or physical harassment on account of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Harassment of any type on the part of managers, supervisors or team members will not be tolerated.”
The policy also promises that Walgreens will also soon issue “Gender Transition Guidelines for the Workplace” to assist in responding to different situations that may arise. “The intent of this policy is to support transgender individuals and foster an environment of inclusion and mutual respect.”
According to the policy, neither discrimination nor harassment will be tolerated in hiring, transfer, discipline, job assignment, promotion, termination, training, compensation, or performance evaluations at the company.
Walgreens has a long history of supporting its LGBTQ customers. It earns a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, and in 2016, it launched a resource guide to help its 70,000 health care professionals “better understand the needs of LGBTQ customers and patients.” The company’s webpage has many resources dedicated to its goals of diversity and inclusion.
As the discrimination that Meehan experienced demonstrates, however, the company has not been perfect. In 2015, for example, Walgreens outsourced its clinics in Oregon and Washington state to a Catholic hospital, raising concerns that the change would result in women and LGBTQ people being denied care.
In 2016, Target similarly implemented a corporate-wide policy guaranteeing transgender people would have access to facilities matching their gender identity. Anti-LGBTQ conservatives launched a massive protest, fabricating the success of their efforts while revealing the true animus motivating their opposition to trans inclusion. Though they claimed the backlash negatively impacted Target’s stock, the evidence doesn’t support that conclusion.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Jessie Meehan as a trans woman.