Illinois has passed a law that requires all single-occupancy public bathrooms be labeled as gender-neutral. The Equitable Restrooms Act, which takes effect on January 1, 2020, mandates that all single-occupancy restrooms “in a place of public accommodation or public building” to be identified as “all-gender and designated for use by no more than one person at a time or for family or assisted use…” and “[e]ach single-occupancy restroom shall be outfitted with exterior signage that marks the single-occupancy restroom as a restroom and does not indicate any specific gender.”
Illinois Statute - All Gender Restroom
Relevant portions of the text of the law include:
- This Section applies to any existing or future places of public accommodation or public buildings.
- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, every single-occupancy restroom in a place of public accommodation or public building shall be identified as all-gender and designated for use by no more than one person at a time or for family or assisted use. Each single-occupancy restroom shall be outfitted with exterior signage that marks the single-occupancy restroom as a restroom and does not indicate any specific gender.
- During any inspection of a place of public accommodation or public building by a health officer or health inspector, the health officer or health inspector may inspect the place of public accommodation or public building to determine whether it complies with this Section.
Importantly, the Act does not require that building occupants/owners modify existing multi-stall bathrooms to create single-occupancy bathrooms or address any changes in the labeling or permissible use of multiple-occupancy restrooms.
Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, places of “public accommodation” is broadly defined. It includes, but is not limited to:
- an inn, hotel, motel, or other place of lodging, except for an establishment located within a building that contains not more than 5 units for rent or hire and that is actually occupied by the proprietor of such establishment as the residence of such proprietor;
- a restaurant, bar, or other establishment serving food or drink;
- a motion picture house, theater, concert hall, stadium, or other place of exhibition or entertainment;
- an auditorium, convention center, lecture hall, or other place of public gathering;
- a bakery, grocery store, clothing store, hardware store, shopping center, or other sales or rental establishment;
- a laundromat, dry-cleaner, bank, barber shop, beauty shop, travel service, shoe repair service, funeral parlor, gas station, office of an accountant or lawyer, pharmacy, insurance office, professional office of a health care provider, hospital, or other service establishment;
- public conveyances on air, water, or land;
- a terminal, depot, or other station used for specified public transportation;
- a museum, library, gallery, or other place of public display or collection;
- a park, zoo, amusement park, or other place o recreation;
- a non-sectarian nursery, day care center, elementary, secondary, undergraduate, or postgraduate school, or other place of education;
- a senior citizen center, homeless shelter, food bank, non-sectarian adoption agency, or other social service center establishment; and
- a gymnasium, health spa, bowling alley, golf course, or other place of exercise or recreation.
Designation of a Gender-Neutral Single Occupancy Restroom Law Falls Short of Requiring Gender Neutral Bathrooms
While initially seen as an attempt to resolve the issue previously addressed in my earlier blog, “The Hot Employment Law Issue That You Can’t Ignore: Which Bathroom?”, McKenna-law.com, June 20, 2016, it merely provides an option to use a single-occupancy gender-neutral restroom. It does not address the rights of transgender individuals to use the public restrooms designated to the gender with which they identify.
As with my earlier blog on “Which Bathroom”, the best practice is to permit a person to use the public restrooms designated to the gender with which they identify.
A new regulation such as the Illinois Equitable Restrooms Act is likely to trigger a host of decisions and policies that Illinois businesses will need to grapple with, including whether they are creating a gender neutral discrimination-free work environment.
As an employment litigation attorney at McKenna Storer, I help companies anticipate and address the implications of federal and local employment laws such as Illinois’ Equitable Restrooms Act. Please contact me if you have any questions about this topic or any employment law matter where we can be of help.