A bill which would allow individuals with certain medical conditions access to private employee restrooms in retail establishments was reported out of the Legislative Commissioner’s Office and approved by various committees on Tuesday.
House Bill 6328 (download here) states that "Any retail establishment that has a restroom for employee use, which typically does not permit customer access to such employee restroom, shall permit a customer to use the employee restroom during normal business hours if the restroom is maintained in a reasonably safe manner."
But the bill also requires that four other conditions to be met too:
(1) The customer requesting access to the employee restroom presents written evidence, issued by a licensed health care provider, that documents that the customer suffers from an eligible medical condition;
(2) A public restroom is not immediately accessible to the customer;
(3) At the time that the request for access to the employee restroom is made, three or more employees of the retail establishment are working; and
(4) The employee restroom is located in an area of the retail establishment that does not present an obvious risk to the health or safety of the customer or an obvious security risk to the retail establishment.
The bill is obviously well-intentioned. Those with conditions like Crohn’s disease may have the sudden onset of the need to use the restroom and its a serious and genuine condition.(You can view the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America website here, which has some very helpful information. That organization even offers members the opportunity to print cards that state the person has a medical condition that requires you to use the bathroom urgently.) And for employers, being flexible in your bathroom access may win you a few more customers in the long-term.
So, while this is one of those bills that pops up from time to time that may be very well meaning, it would create yet another series of regulations that employers would need to regulate. All the exceptions of the bill only add to the disruptive nature of the bill. Can you imagine an employer trying to figure out (with a customer standing there) whether the business meets various exceptions on the fly? And you can imagine other issues that might come up such as what about allowing families with small kids the same sort of access?
2009 is shaping up to be among the busiest years in a decade for employers. This is just another bill to be on the lookout for as the session winds up in the next month or so.