On February 7, 2023, California Assembly Member Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-16) introduced Assembly Bill (AB) No. 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 jobsites with two or more required water closets.” AB 521 would require the Board to review these proposed changes and consider adopting the revised standards on or before December 31, 2025.
AB 521 relies on the following legislative findings and declarations in support of its proposal:
(1) Women are underrepresented in the trades and face numerous barriers on jobsites.
(2) One of these many barriers is access to a clean and secure restroom.
(3) Shared restrooms often pose sanitary as well as safety concerns for women on jobsites.
The bill further declares that “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 water closets on any jobsite with at least sixteen 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 “[a]ll 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 September 29, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill No. 1194, which added Section 118507 to the Health and Safety Code and authorized “a city, county, or city and county [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 multistall toilet facilities in California.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor AB 521 and will post updates on the firm’s California and Workplace Safety and Health blogs as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.