Unusual bill grants opens access to retail restrooms

By Becca Heller


Employees only signLegislators work on big issues like gun control, the death penalty and taxes, but then there are hundreds of other bills addressing smaller problems that fly under the radar.

The governor just signed a bill into law that expands access to an “employees only” bathroom in a retail store for individuals suffering from Crohn’s disease or other medical conditions that require immediate access to a restroom.

“When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go,” said Del. Norman Conway, D-Wicomico, sponsor of HB 1183.

The new law tells the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to provide individuals with identification cards which, signed by a person’s primary physician, identify the person’s medical condition and grant them unlimited access to otherwise-restricted restrooms.

“This is a recognition of some serious problems that individuals have like Crohn’s disease,” said Conway. “To most people, this probably seems like an unusual bill unless you happen to be one of those individuals.”

There was an unsuccessful attempt to pass a similar bill last year.

Retailers objected

“We had this bill last year, it didn’t get out because the retailers weren’t comfortable with it,” said Sen. Thomas Middleton, chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

Conway and the bill’s co-sponsors, however, proposed several tweaks to current law that were unanimously accepted by committee members and, ultimately, signed into law.

Currently, any retail institution with 20 or more employees is required to offer up access to facilities to individuals who suffer from medical conditions like Crohn’s disease.

HB 1183 changes this statute to apply to any retail institution with 3 or more working employees, but it also provides the special ID card to ensure that individuals are not taking advantage of the law.

The DHMH endorsed the new initiative, and will soon begin the distribution of the identification cards.

“We’re very comfortable that this represents a good position for us to help people who do often have problems in retail establishments and need to use the facility,” said Clifford Mitchell, chief of the Office of Environmental, Occupational, and Injury Epidemiology for the DHMH.

About The Author

Len Lazarick


Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Dee

    That’s Great News!!! Hopefully it is passed everywhere…

  2. Angie Boyter

    Do we really needs a law and ID cards for sometihng that shoudl amount just to simple human decency?????

    • Leon Howard

      yes, we do!! I have told people I have crohns, and that I HAD to go. They told me sorry we do not have public restrooms.

    • Vera Carroll

      Unfortunately, yes. I have been turned down numerous times by stores to use the restroom when I suddenly, and without warning, experience an attack, even though I explain that I have Crohns. They look at me like I have two heads, they have no idea what Crohns is and they don’t care. I have had to then run out of the store so that I am not seen shitting in my pants. I now wear Depends whenever I shop, for additional “protection” against accidents. It is humiliating and upsetting.

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