We have a small retail store with just a handful of employees. We provide the employees with a small restroom back in the storage area near our inventory. Do we have to allow customers back there if they ask for a restroom?
This is a jurisdiction-based, fact-dependent issue that could also vary with the number of employees you have.
In general, about half the states have restroom access laws that require a retail establishment to allow individuals with specific medical conditions to use employee restrooms.
There can be limits in specific statutes, such as the person asking has to have an ostomy device, Crohn's disease, or other like medical conditions (which vary from state to state) that require immediate access to a toilet. One state, Washington, for example, provides a health card a person with such disabilities can carry to show to the store.
Other statutes may address security. Is the restroom in a physically safe area (ex. could floors be wet, or hazardous materials present, or is lighting inadequate?) or is the restroom located where there is a security risk for inventory? And, some statutes require the person be escorted to the restroom, which means there must be at least enough other employees remaining to keep serving other customers.
Have a plan before an awkward situation arises, so your employees know what to say or do. Work with your legal counsel to determine what the requirements are in your locality for your particular retail location and number of employees. There can be penalties enforced for violations.
Jack McCalmon, Leslie Zieren, and Emily Brodzinski are attorneys with more than 50 years combined experience assisting employers in lowering their risk, including answering questions, like the one above, through the McCalmon Group's Best Practices Help Line. The Best Practice Help Line is a service of The McCalmon Group, Inc. Your organization may have access to The Best Practice Help Line or a similar service from another provider at no cost to you or at a discount. For questions about The Best Practice Help Line or what similar services are available to you via this Platform, call 888.712.7667.
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