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California Businesses Must Designate All Restrooms As Gender-Neutral

by Adriana Cara, Esq.
Sunday Mar 19, 2017

AB 1732, described as among the most progressive laws supporting transgender rights in the nation, takes effect on March 1, 2017 and requires California businesses as well as any establishment open to the public, to designate existing single-user restroom facilities as "All-gender."

The new law, which adds Section 118600 to the California Health and Safety Code, provides that "All single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of public accommodation, or state or local government agency shall be identified as all-gender toilet facilities..." It further clarifies that a single-user toilet facility "...means a toilet facility with no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by
the user" and that such facilities shall be "Designated for use by no more than one occupant at a time or for family or assisted use."

The text of AB 1732 provides that "current practices that restrict access to single-occupancy restrooms by gender create problems of safety, fairness and convenience" and points out that all-gender restrooms are already utilized on commercial airplanes. However, not all Californians are in accord with the new law, despite its relatively painless passage. For example, the Sacramento-based Capitol Resource Family Impact, in association with the Capitol Resource Institute, was quoted as saying that the bill is "Yet another attempt to further create gender confusion in society by loosely defining and altering a person's natural sex through the codification of gender identity and expression as a protected class."

Although AB 1732 is embraced by many Californians because it supports the right of transgender individuals to have equal access to public restroom facilities enjoyed by others, proponents of the bill point out that the new law also addresses the disproportionate burden that gender-segregated restrooms place "...on women, and parents or caretakers of dependents of the opposite gender." Under the law, for example, a female caretaker or nurse will be permitted to access a single-user facility with her male charge or patient, without fear of running afoul of the law.

Notably, AB 1732 is in line with California school districts, which currently permit students to use restroom facilities consistent with their gender identities, as well as the DFEH (Department of Fair Employment and Housing) guidelines affecting California employers that were issued on
February 17, 2016. The guidelines address the most frequently asked questions concerning transgender rights in the workplace and, among other things, provide that "an employer should provide an easily accessible unisex single stall bathroom for use by any employee who desires increased privacy, regardless of the underlying reason."

The DFEH Guidelines are available on the DFEH's website

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