A Move Towards Mandating Gender Neutral Restroom Facilities

by Michelle Ferber and Brooke Barnum

This past Monday, May 9, 2016, the California State Assembly passed a Bill in a 55-19 vote that would require single-user restrooms to be designated as “gender neutral.” The Bill, AB 1732, is drafted to apply to all business establishments, public and government buildings. A single use restroom is defined by the Bill as “a toilet facility with no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user.” 

The Bill does not address multi-stall restrooms, nor does it change existing laws with respect to the number of, specifications for, or other facility requirements for restrooms that a business or entity must comply with under the existing California Building Standards Code or current local ordinances. AB 1732 will now go to the California Senate and if the Bill passes, it will go into effect on March 1, 2017.

AB 1732 follows the best practices as stated by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Association (“OSHA”). The author of the Bill, Assembly Member Phil Ting from San Francisco, notes that the traditions of gender-based restroom restrictions create three categories of problems: 1) convenience; 2) fairness; and, 3) safety. In an effort to address those concerns, AB 1732 will require those businesses with “single-user” restrooms to be universally accessible regardless of a person’s gender designation.

What this means for California employers is that, at a minimum, they should be ready to purchase signage designating any single-use restrooms in their control as gender neutral. The Bill does not state penalties for violations at this time, but it does contain an enforcement provision: “During any inspection of a business or a place of public accommodation by an inspector, building official, or other local official responsible for code enforcement, the inspector or official may inspect for compliance.”

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.