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3/24/2022 House passes Ackerman bill granting employee restroom access to those with medical issues
STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives today passed a bill introduced by Rep. Mia Ackerman to allow those who suffer from certain medical conditions to use restrooms that are reserved for employees only.

The legislation (2022-H 7392) would require retail establishments with three or more employees on the premises without public restroom facilities to allow customers suffering from eligible medical conditions access to their employee restrooms upon presentation of documentation issued by a licensed physician.

“It’s a shame that we sometimes have to legislate compassion,” said Representative Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln), who is deputy majority whip in the House. “I understand that not every business has public restrooms for various reasons. But refusing access to someone with a medical condition simply because of store policy is just inhumane.”

Inflammatory bowel disease can cause the sudden and sometimes painful urge to have a bowel movement — and this urge doesn’t always happen when a public restroom is available. The issue was first brought to the attention of Representative Ackerman by a constituent who suffers from cancer and was denied access to an employee bathroom during an emergency, leading to an embarrassing and public accident.

Eligible medical conditions would include Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, any other inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, pregnancy, cancer or any other medical condition that requires immediate access to a restroom facility.

During committee hearings, the legislation was given strong support by the medical community, including gastroenterologist Alyn Adrain, a past president of the American College of Gastroenterology.

“The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 1.3 percent of the adult population suffers from inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis,” said Dr. Adrain, who testified in favor of the bill. “That translates to about 3 million Americans and over 13,000 Rhode Islanders. You would think that basic human kindness and empathy would dictate that public businesses would allow them access in their time of urgent need. I believe this bill would ease the burden these people face, without unduly burdening the businesses in this state.”

The measure, which has passed the House annually since 2019, now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence) has introduced a companion bill (2022-S 2719).

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903