Restroom Access Bill for Crohn’s Sufferers Ready for Floor Vote

DOVER – Today the House Health and Human Development Committee voted to release House Substitute 1 for House Bill 245 to the House floor for a vote. The substitute legislation is a compromise measure drafted by sponsor Rep. Trey Paradee that alleviates concerns expressed by businesses and legal experts while still providing people with diagnosed medical needs access to employee-only restrooms in Delaware.

The restroom access provisions would apply to people with “Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, any other inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or any other medical condition that requires immediate access to a restroom facility,” as defined in the bill. It would also cover people using ostomy devices.

The measure would allow businesses to ask a customer requesting restroom access to show documentation of his or her medical condition, either in the form a doctor’s note or an identification card issued by a nationally-recognized health organization or state agency. Businesses would not be required to make any changes or upgrades to restrooms that are not normally accessible to the public.

“People with Crohn’s and other similar conditions, as well as their families, deserve some peace of mind, compassion and dignity when it comes to their medical needs,” said Rep. Paradee, D-Dover West.

Compromise changes incorporated into HS 1 for HB 245 include stronger language related to situations when restroom access would cause a safety issue for a business, and the addition of a warning for a business that breaks the restroom access rules, prior to receiving a $100 fine for subsequent violations.

Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s, affect thousands of people of all ages. Symptoms of the conditions include persistent diarrhea, cramps and abdominal pain, and the urgent need to move the bowels. Often, these symptoms are sudden and unexpected, following long periods when the person has experienced no symptoms at all.

At least thirteen states have similar statutes granting access to non-public restrooms for medical reasons, including Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Texas and Washington. Many of those laws also offer protections to businesses and allow them to ask for documented proof of an eligible condition.