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U.S. House Speaker McCarthy removed in historic vote

Bathroom Bill Faces Criticism

Retailers in Massachusetts are concerned over a bill in the state’s legislature that would require businesses to allow the public to use employee rest rooms or face a penalty. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

The bill filed by Representative Louis Kafka serves to ensure private restroom access in retail businesses for those suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases. Advocates for those individuals with conditions like Chron’s disease are in support of the measure, while opponents think the bill would open the door to a new set of problems.

John Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts said that passage of the bill could end in results that aren’t so simple.

Hurst considers the bill unnecessary and that businesses can do a better job of controlling use of a bathroom than the government.

But Rob Harris disagrees.

Harris is the New England Regional Director of the Chron’s and Colitis Foundation for America – or CCFA. His organization is standing in support of the legislation.

Harris mentioned that the issue is particularly challenging for children, or anyone embarrassed about having to ask to use a restroom in an emergency.

Under the bill, retailers who refuse restroom access in need could face a $100 penalty. John Hurst of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts asked why the bill only seeks to regulate businesses, and does not extend to government, banks, or other institutions. Harris  of the CCFA said starting with retail is a step in the right direction.

 The bill initially passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives last week, it has not made its way through the Senate.

 A similar version of the bill previously failed to pass the Senate in the last session. Language has since been added to excuse retail outlets with only one employee, would not require businesses to make facility upgrades, and would excuse situations that would present security or safety risks. Similar legislation has passed in 12 other states.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.