California Bill Pushes for Women’s Designated Restrooms

By Karen F. Tynan and James L. Shea © Ogletree Deakins March 6, 2023

California Assembly Member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-16) recently introduced Assembly Bill 521, which calls on the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to submit a rulemaking proposal to the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board that would require at least one women's designated restroom for worksites with two or more required restrooms.

AB 521 would require the board to review these proposed changes and consider adopting the revised standards on or before Dec. 31, 2025.

AB 521 relies on the following legislative findings and declarations in support of its proposal:

  • Women are underrepresented in the trades and face numerous barriers on worksites.
  • One of these many barriers is access to a clean and secure restroom.
  • Shared restrooms often pose sanitary and safety concerns for women on worksites.

The bill further declares, "It is necessary to take action to ensure that women have access to at least one separate women's designated restroom at jobsites when other restroom facilities are also available for others at the jobsite."

The bill proposes to add Section 6722 to the California Labor Code, which would require the submission of a rulemaking proposal that would ultimately take the form of a revision to Section 3364 of Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations.

The current version of Section 3364 calls for the provision of two or more restrooms on any jobsite with at least 16 employees. Section 3364 also requires that "all single-user toilet facilities [be] designated for all-gender use" while requiring that "all multi-user separate toilet facilities [be] provided in equal number to each sex."

It will be interesting to see how the discussion of AB 521 plays out in light of other California laws that appear to confirm a growing push for gender-neutral bathrooms, whether the bathroom is for a single user or multiple users.

Since March 1, 2017, California Health and Safety Code Section 118600 has required that "all single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of public accommodation, or state or local government agency … be identified as all-gender toilet facilities."

More recently, on Sept. 29, 2022, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 1194, which added Section 118507 to the Health and Safety Code and authorized cities and counties to "require new or renovated public toilet facilities within its jurisdiction to be designed, constructed, and identified for use by all genders, instead of the design standards for separate facilities for men and women found in the applicable provisions … of the California Plumbing Code."

Interestingly, AB 521 is partially premised on a theory that not allowing a female-only bathroom may cause a sanitary or safety concern, while the Health and Safety Code now specifically allows all genders to use multi-stall toilet facilities in California.

Karen F. Tynan and James L. Shea are attorneys with Ogletree Deakins in Sacramento, Calif. © 2023. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.



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