The right to use restrooms


Your answer about gender-specific bathrooms got me thinking about building codes. Since all these buildings have to be constructed with working restrooms, is it technically illegal for someone in a shop to tell me they don’t have a bathroom?

— Holding It

Well, “We don’t have a bathroom” is a an oft-repeated load of utter crap. Building codes and federal labor laws both mandate bathrooms sufficient to the proposed occupant load. For customers, getting to use the bathrooms can be the tricky bit. Businesses don’t want people using their bathrooms, so they make them “employee only.” From a purely technical standpoint, customers are legally “occupants” of the building when they do business there and the bathrooms are theirs to use. But just try explaining the fine print of California building codes to an obstinate 7-Eleven clerk. Chances are you won’t get far unless you happen to be a state building inspector and can quote the codes from a position of authority. Advocates for bathroom access, particularly people who suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases, are pushing for versions of “Ally’s Law” in every state. Currently, a handful of states have passed legislation that obliges businesses to allow customers with a medical emergency access to the bathroom. Perhaps, in time, everybody will follow suit and those of us with less problematic colons will gain the right to use bathrooms with impunity as well.

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