California Public Restrooms Law

By Jayne Thompson - Updated December 09, 2018
Public Restroom Sign

The State of California stipulates that all public and privately owned buildings where the public gathers be equipped with enough restrooms to meet the needs of the public at peak hours. This includes sports and entertainment arenas, amusement parks, community halls and event centers. Different rules apply to restaurants, coffee shops and the like but, in general, all businesses that serve food for consumption on site should provide some sort of public restroom for their customers and guests.

Tip

Virtually all food-related businesses and public event centers must provide restroom facilities for customers and guests. Where restrooms are single-occupancy, they must be designated as gender-neutral.

Food Establishments

Restaurants, coffee shops and other eat-in food facilities must provide clean restrooms for customers and guests. For larger buildings of more than 20,000 square feet, there should be at least one separate restroom for men and one for women; smaller buildings meet code if they provide one single-occupancy restroom. Buildings of less than 20,000 square feet constructed before 2004 do not have to provide public restrooms but they must alert customers to this fact with prominent signage. Where there's no public restroom, it's up the individual establishment to decide whether it lets customers use the restroom facilities meant for employees.

Public Buildings

Places where the public congregates such as sports and entertainment arenas, community halls, convention centers, stadiums, amusement arenas and ski resorts must have sufficient temporary or permanent restrooms to meet the needs of the public at peak hours. This rule applies whether the building is public or privately owned. Hotels are excluded from this legislation as are most historic buildings due to difficulties in adapting these properties.

Equal Restroom Access Act

California has some of the most inclusive public restroom laws in the country. Essentially, any business or public building with single-occupancy restrooms must designate the restrooms as gender-neutral. The recommended symbol comprises a geometric symbol of a triangle superimposed on a circle. If words are used, they must be written in gender-neutral language such as "All-Gender Restroom," "Unisex," "Gender-Neutral," "All Welcome" or simply "Restroom."

Other Requirements

California has various plumbing codes in place to ensure that public bathrooms meet minimum health standards. The codes prescribe everything from the location of restrooms – for example, you can't have customers passing through food preparation areas to reach the public restroom facilities – to the type of door to be fitted to toilet cubicles and technical details for sanitary drainage. Each city or county may specify its own rules. Regardless of whether a restroom is required by law, if it is provided, it must meet the standards laid down by the Americans with Disabilities Act and current California accessibility standards.

About the Author

Jayne Thompson earned an LLB in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LLM in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “big law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts. Find her at www.whiterosecopywriting.com.

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