A few weeks back, I reported on the progress of a bill that would require retail establishments to open up their private employee restrooms for customers with some medical conditions.
House Bill 6328 has now become Public Act 09-129 after the legislature approved the measure late last month. Yesterday it was transmitted to the Secretary of State to become law effective October 1, 2009.
What Does the New Law Require?
Any retail establishment (any business that is open to the general public to sell goods or services) that has employee-only restrooms must permit a customer to use that restroom during normal business hours if the restroom is maintained in a reasonably safe manner and four conditions are met:
- Customer must have written evidence, by a licensed health care provider, that he/she suffers from an eligible medical condition (colitis, Crohn’s; IBS; IBD; celiac disease or “any other condition requiring use of ostomy device”)
- A public restroom is not immediately accessible to the customer;
- 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
- 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.
As I said before, this bill is well-intentioned. (Indeed for more information on the medical conditions, you can view this website.) But how employers are going to deal with the practical ramifications of it is another story.
For example, can a bank refuse access to its restroom because of the "obvious security risk" of allowing a customer access to private parts of the bank? Are employees supposed to make these decisions about who has an eligible medical condition and what documentation they will accept? And how close does a public restroom need to be in order for it to be accessible? Next door? Down the street?
Nevertheless, retail establishments should review their restroom policies and procedures and notify employees of any changes to the restroom access, particularly after the law’s effective date of October 1, 2009. If restrictions are still necessary, be sure to document the reasons for such a decision. Any violations of the law will be treated as an infraction — most likely a small fine.