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Employee-Only Restrooms are not only for Employees

People living with disabilities and/or chronic medical conditions face additional challenges while living out their daily lives. This is not only burdensome, but especially embarrassing for sufferers of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or an associated condition. These inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) involve a debilitating urgency to use the restroom or else face an unwanted bowel accident. This embarrassing and messy consequence associated with not having immediate restroom access leads to significant worry among sufferers. To add insult to injury, sufferers have had instances where they have been denied access to perfectly functioning restrooms in public because the restrooms are designated as employee-only. To provide some relief for those suffering, the Restroom Access Act, also known as Ally’s Law or Crohn’s & Colitis Fairness Act, has been passed in numerous states, including California.

Restroom Access Act

The origin of the Restroom Access Act begins with a 14-year-old girl named Ally Bain who was suffering from Crohn’s disease. Ally’s Crohn’s flared up while she was shopping with her mom at a large retail store, but, despite the urgency of the situation, she was denied access to an employee-only restroom. Expectedly Ally soiled herself which prompted Ally’s mother to fight for change so that this would not happen again to her daughter or anyone else suffering with this debilitating condition. Ally’s mother was successful and the first bill was signed into law in August 2005 in Illinois.

California has followed suit and codified the Restroom Access Act in the California Health and Safety Code Division 104, Part 15, Chapter 2, Article 6, Section 118700.

The act requires that any place of business that is open to the general public for the sale of goods and that has a toilet facility for its employees to allow any individual who has an irritable bowel condition to use that facility when no public restroom is immediately available. Additional requirements are that there are three or more employees onsite at the time the restroom request is made and that the use of the facility will not create an obvious health, safety, or security risk.

The place of business is allowed to require reasonable evidence for the medical condition and sufferers may present a signed statement from a medical provider or a form developed by the California Department of Public Health.

Restroom Access Wallet Card

The California Department of Public Health has developed a downloadable wallet card and form that can be completed with the health care provider. This card allow suffers to present as reasonable evidence of their medical condition to businesses when such a request is made thereby meeting the requirements of the Restroom Access Act. The wallet card has the added benefit of putting the place of business on notice by referencing Section 118700.

Violations and Penalties

The Restroom Access Act does not in of itself create or imply a private right of action for violation of the act unless the violation is willful or grossly negligent and violations are generally subject to a civil penalty of up to $100.00.

Implications

Many businesses are likely unaware of this law and the use of the designated department wallet card helps with this process. More awareness is ultimately needed and there maybe further changes in the future for this emerging area of the law. Nevertheless, this law is a significant step in the right direction and provides the needed peace of mind for sufferers.

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