Articles

Employer Alert: Effective March 1, California Businesses Must Gender-Neutralize Bathrooms

February 27, 2017

by Christine H. Long

The laws affecting California businesses are ever changing and 2017 proves to be no different. Effective March 1, 2017, all California businesses will have to remove any labelling that designates a “single-user toilet facility” as either “male” or “female”.  The California State Legislature passing of AB 1732 established the nation’s most inclusive restroom access law.  The bill’s passing followed a federal judge’s ruling preventing the U.S. Department of Education from implementing guidance requiring school districts to allow transgender students to choose which restroom and locker facilities to use based on gender identity.  

This law defines “single-user toilet facility” as “a toilet facility with no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user.” In layman’s term, if you have a bathroom that has a single door to enter it, you need to update your signage. 

"This is a common sense proposal," said Rick Zbur, Executive Director of Equality California.  "Our home restrooms are already all-gender.  So are restrooms on airplanes and at many hospitals and gas stations.  The benefits of this simple change will enable all Californians to use restrooms in a way that is more safe, fair, and convenient."

Many business owners are wondering if they must use the new transgender signs or reconfigure their bathrooms. The answer is no. This bill will not change existing laws with respect to the number of, specifications for, or other facility requirements for restrooms that a business or entity must comply with under the existing CBC or current local ordinances, but changes the restroom access designation.  Furthermore, any markings that label a single user facility as men’s or women’s either by wording or signage will need to be updated. 

Business owners should be proactive by updating their signage and any other gender-specific markings before the March 1, 2017 deadline.

While there are no specified penalties as of yet, the law specifically permits inspectors, building officials, or other local officials responsible for code enforcement to inspect for compliance with the bathroom signage requirement.  Thus violations will likely be assessed on the local level as municipalities pass or revise ordinances in response to AB 1732’s enactment. 

Furthermore, there are already statutes in place that protect equal access for individuals relative to both business and employment. Thus a failure to comply would likely result in the business being sued under one or more of the statutes relating to equal access. 

If you require assistance with compliance with AB1732 or any other matter relative to your business please contact Christine Long, Esq. (408) 286-5800 or christine.long@berliner.com

Berliner Cohen LLP’s experienced employment law attorneys advise and represent employers and managers on a full range of legal issues affecting the workplace, including harassment and discrimination, unfair competition and trade secrets, wrongful discharge, wage and hour issues, and labor disputes. Berliner Cohen LLP also is skilled in representing employers in both State and Federal Class Action cases. For almost fifty years, Berliner Cohen LLP, founded and headquartered in San Jose, California, has been one of the most highly-respected full-service business law firms in the region. Berliner Cohen possesses the specialized expertise required to serve the business and regulatory needs of a diverse clientele, which includes publicly-traded corporations and privately-held entities across various sectors, public agencies and governmental entities, leading real estate developers, owners, operators, managers and investors, and banking and other financial institutions. Berliner Cohen also meets the growing demands of the San Joaquin Valley with its Merced and Modesto offices.

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