In California, all business establishments, places of public accommodation, or government agencies with single-occupancy restrooms are now required to identify such toilet facilities as all-gender restrooms. In September 2016, California state governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 1732 (now codified as California Health and Safety Code section 118600), effective March 1, 2017.
The new law, called the California Equal Restroom Access Act, requires all California businesses, public facilities, and government agencies that have single-use toilet facilities (meaning, a restroom with no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user) to permit any person regardless of gender identity to use those restrooms. These establishments are required to re-designate such restrooms as “unisex” in compliance with Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations, Building Code (CBC) Chapter 11B, by putting a geometric symbol on the door that is an equilateral triangle superimposed onto a circle. No pictogram, text, or braille is required on the symbol on the door sign. Below is an example of the door sign provided by the California Division of the State Architect that complies with the new law:
While CBC Chapter 11B does not require a wall-mounted designation sign, if a business or agency elects to post a sign adjacent to the restroom facility door, the sign is required to comply with the technical requirements for visual characters, raised characters, braille, and must also comply with other accessibility requirements for mounting height, clear floor space, and proximity to the door/entrance of the room. Examples of what the sign may state include “All-Gender Restroom,” “Restroom,” or “Unisex Restroom.”
The new restroom law arrives in the wake of Governor Brown’s recent approval of a law that prohibits state agencies from requiring employees to travel to North Carolina or other states that allow discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Last year, the North Carolina Legislature passed H.B. 2 that prohibits local governments and municipalities from granting civil rights protections to LGBT individuals, and requires people to use restrooms with the signage that matches the gender listed on their birth certificates. The North Carolina law was enacted shortly after the City of Charlotte passed an ordinance that extended anti-discrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and allowed transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice.
Lauded as the most inclusive restroom access law in the country, California Assembly member Philip Y. Yang (D-San Francisco) has explained the purpose of the new California law is to ensure the safety, fairness, and convenience of access to everyone, as single-gender, single-use restrooms have disproportionately burdened the LGBT community, women, and parents or caretakers of dependents of the opposite gender. The new law also authorizes public inspectors or building officials to conduct inspections for compliance with the law.
California businesses that commonly have these sorts of single-occupancy restrooms, such as restaurants, schools, and small businesses, will have to comply with the law. Luckily, the new law does not affect multiple-user restrooms, and the changes for the single-use toilet facilities that need to be made seem to require only a new sign to comply with the new requirements.