New Texas Law Guarantees Access To Restrooms

Under a new law signed by Texas Governor Rick Perry, retailers can’t deny restroom access to any consumer with a valid medical condition. Stores with less than two employees on duty are exempt, and mistrustful employees can ask to see a doctors note. The Texas Retailers Association had no objection to the law, which for some consumers, is a godsend:

“When I was 7 and was shopping for a Halloween costume at a store here in Austin, I asked to use the bathroom and they said no,” Wicker said. “They said the closest one was across the street at a Taco Cabana. I ran out the door and I almost got hit by a car because I wasn’t looking both ways, I was just interested in finding a bathroom.”

She and several other children set up a meeting with state Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, who knew nothing of the problem but was immediately impressed by their research and passion. He sponsored the bill and the kids did most of the lobbying for it.

The new law still would not have helped Catherine access a bathroom at Jo-Ann Fabrics, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

Restroom law ensures those with conditions have access [Houston Chronicle]
(Photo: Landii)


Edit Your Comment

  1. gatopeligroso says:

    So what happens if you can’t provide a doctors note?

  2. Toof_75_75 says:


    Then you are, as they say, “Up shit creek…”

  3. Raze50 says:

    Too bad needing to use a toilet to help stem the flow of poo running down your leg isn’t a valid medical condition.

  4. Steel_Pelican says:

    I’m not too sure about this one. The reason that most retailers don’t let customers use their restroom is because their restroom is only accessible through the stockroom, or the restroom is the stockroom. This is almost always the case in stores in shopping malls and strip malls.

    This puts retailers in a dangerous position, because to allow a customer privacy in the restroom is also to allow them privacy in your stockroom.

    I think it is more feasible to require stores above X square footage to have a public restroom, or for strip malls to have 1 public restroom for every X storefronts.

  5. Thrust says:

    @Toof_75_75: Or shitting out a creek…

    @Raze50: Simply needing a bathroom does not mean you can just waltz in anywhere. This is for people, like the fabric store incident, who have a condition that makes it even more difficult than someone just having to hold it in. If you don’t have a medical condition that may require bathroom use ASAP, you have no excuse to not have gone before leaving the house, or when you were near a public crapper.

  6. KleineFrau says:

    What if you do not want to share your medical condition with a store employee, who is also extremely unlikely to have a medical degree which might be required to understand your condition?

    Will a receipt from Taco Bell be good in lieu of doctor’s note?

    By the way, no questions asked toilet access in a nice little restaurant in So Cal last weekend. Kudos to them!

  7. Steel_Pelican says:

    @Thrust: I have a condition, IBS, but I’m still not sure I can support this. It’s not as bad as Crohn’s, but I feel like it’s my responsibility to know where and when I’ll have access to a public restroom. If I go shopping in an unfamiliar mall, I check the map and make a mental note of where the restaurants and public restrooms are. When I’m at a strip mall, I look around for places that I know I can use- grocery stores, fast food joints, etc.

  8. lucidpsyche says:

    I work in a small boutique gift store. We used to allow anyone who asked to use the restroom, until we had an incident with one woman. She asked to use the restroom, was in there for 40 minutes, and then left. When my boss went in later, the restroom STUNK, and there were feces all over the place — not just in the toilet. Apparently, it took my boss (who happens to own the store) over an hour to clean the mess up.

    The woman didn’t say anything to any employees about the mess she had made.

    We’re a tiny shop. We don’t have a dedicated cleaning staff. The restroom is the ONLY restroom we have for employees, and it’s about the size of a closet. The whole story makes me gag just thinking about it.

    After this whole incident, we ended up putting a massive lock on the door to prevent people from even just sneaking in.

    Not saying that stores shouldn’t provide access to restrooms, but sometimes there’s a valid reason.

  9. Thrust says:

    @Steel_Pelican: No! Don’t take responsibility for your own well being. That’s crazy. /sarcasm

  10. KSE says:

    Why is it the private businesses responsibility to provide you with a bathroom?

    If a private business doesn’t want to provide rest rooms to random people to do God knows what, why should they be forced to? How is this a proper imposition of government?

  11. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Wait….a store “with less than two employees on duty”?

    You mean…just one employee? Or am I missing something here?

  12. tvh2k says:


    I thought the same thing. It’s just the government’s way of being unnecessarily obscure.

  13. goodkitty says:

    We just need to make public ‘relief’ legal. When the stores have the choice of providing one bathroom to their customers, or cleaning up steaming piles of poo in front of the store, they will do the right thing (either that or public restrooms can come into vogue in the states). In fact, I think defecation should be a valid form of protest.

  14. @AlteredBeast: The original article says “one or two employees”.

    @KleineFrau: Maybe the card/paper for proof can simply state that the person has a qualifying medical condition. It doesn’t have to say what it is as long as it’s official and all the employee really needs to know is that they have to let them in the bathroom.

  15. TechnoDestructo says:

    California needs something like this in the worst kind of way. There are so few public restrooms that I eventually stopped patronizing any gas station that didn’t have one. I’d check before pumping gas, even if I didn’t need to use it.

    I always thought it was because of the assholes who think it’s hilarious to smear shit all over the walls, or the psychos who have to cover the entire surface of the water with toilet paper to prevent a splash, which leads to the toilet getting clogged and flooding the bathroom. Stuff like that.

    Anyhow, it was a bit of a culture-shock for me. AFAIK it’s illegal for a place to serve food in Alaska and not have a restroom available for customers within a certain distance. Not so in California! A lot of fast food places don’t have one on the premises, or anywhere near by.

  16. TechnoDestructo says:


    Did you ever see her again?

    I would love to see a public confrontation over that. With pictures of the bathroom. The ultimate would be if the offender cried.

    Hell, if there were a “To Catch a Shit Smearer” show on MSNBC, I’d watch it religiously.

  17. Threnody says:

    @TechnoDestructo: They can serve food legally without having a bathroom!? How is that at all justifiable? If you sell the input you have to take the output for free!

    Anyways I’ve noticed that in my neck of the woods Starbucks has completely satisfied the need for public bathrooms. It’s good PR for them, and it’s convenient for us, because they keep the damn things clean.

  18. rmz says:

    @KleineFrau: When I read your comment, I was immediately reminded of the story of the woman with no arms who got harrassed by the McDonald’s employees. Same deal here, I guess.

    “Lady, you ain’t got no bowel control.”

  19. coconino says:

    If I am the owner of the restaurant I should be allowed to do what I want with my toilet. It’s your property after all.

    If they passed that law, does that mean ppl who stopped by my garage sale can pee all over my carpet?

  20. RebekahSue says:

    @TechnoDestructo: when i was 16, i was cashier in a gas staion. no public bathroom – for that reason.

    @Threnody: last i heard, here in CT they can’t serve food if you can’t wash your hands before eating. if one bathroom is closed, they’re supposed to let you use that of the other gender, unless they want to let you use the employee bathroom…

    when i went to clubs, i had lysol in my bag; i knew that if i was drunk, i wasn’t going to do the balancing act women are forced to learn because of the “ladies” who pee on the seat. i needed to use a bathroom at 4 a.m. and the nice people in mcdonald’s took pity on me. i had an hour to my train; i cleaned the bathroom for them. (now, i clean the seat before and after use, and tell the person who follows me that i cleaned it. alcohol gel, liquid soap – it may not be as clean as home, but i leave it better than i found it.)

    @Steel_Pelican: what kind of a nut takes responsibility for her own health, and doesn’t blame other people for everything? (rock on, btw)

  21. juri squared says:

    When I worked at Video Game Retail Store, we were anchored by a Target and a Barnes & Noble. The Target was only 2 stores down, so it wasn’t far. We weren’t allowed to let people in the back room; while the consoles were locked up, there was lots of stock overflow that wasn’t. Besides, the restroom was kind of nasty and therefore people were much better off going to Target.

    Actually, I have yet to see an employee restroom that isn’t kind of nasty.

  22. StevieD says:

    I own a commercial supply business with a small showroom for local customers that want to avoid shipping costs. This technically makes me a retail business, and I am required to have a city issued retail business license.

    The city required us to have x number of restrooms per y number of parking places.

    That large number of parking places were required for the employees that working in the warehouse and sales office. Most days I only have a handful of over the counter customers.

    I dumped the public restrooms years ago. I didn’t need them. I remodeled the building and got rid of what I didn’t need or want.

    Now, my local customers know that I have restrooms. Duh, I would need the restrooms for the employees. And I let the established customers free reign of the employee restrooms. Hells Bells, I customers that are practically family.

    But there AINT NO WAY that I am letting somebody I don’t know to walk in off the street and enter a restricted access area just because they want to take a piss.

    Screw the law.

    Now, if you are 6 years old and Mommy will wait in the lobby, I might think about it. But since McD’s is across the street, why would any 6 year old want to use my restroom?

  23. jamesdenver says:

    Good lord these are personal posts – but I’ll share.

    If I’m out doing errands far from home or on a road trip and have to go #2 I scope out a mid-size hotel. A Hampton Inn or larger is always nearby and hotels like that always have a restroom adjacent to the lobby. Larger hotels have them near the big conference rooms.

    The restrooms are always clean, well stocked, the front desk doesn’t hassle you, and they’re rarely occupied.

    Beats a crowded stinky McDonalds or gas station restroom anyday. And if it’s before 10am you can sneak a free breakfast.

  24. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    @Steel_Pelican: I’m also afflicted with the same condition, although I have to say that it’s never gotten to the point where I couldn’t hold it until I was able to find the appropriate restroom. I might be in extreme pain, but I sure as hell don’t want to use some tiny employee restroom either.

  25. strathmeyer says:

    I agree; why does the government need to get involved? Why can’t we all just shit in the streets?

  26. bdgbill says:

    This is stupid. Why not just force private homeowners to open their doors to any stranger who needs to take a crap?

    I work with a chain of 1300 retail locations. The restroom stories are horrendus.

    People shit on the floor. People literally steal anything that is not bolted down. People hide in the restroom at closing time to rob the store. People bring merchandise into the restroom to steal it. Employees OFTEN quit rather than clean some disgusting mess someone has left in the restroom.

    The “general public” behaves worse than retarded baboons when nobody is looking.

  27. ord2fra says:

    What’s wrong with a nice pay toilet in/near a strip mall? I’d gladly pay $2-$5 for 20 minutes should the need arise. Didn’t NYC do something like this in the last few years? After 20 minutes the doors swing open no matter what. How’s that for performance anxiety? :)

  28. kc2gvx says:

    I agree with restaurants having a public restroom, but some places are just not economical or safe. I work at a bank, and we only have employee restrooms. They are in the back, behind the teller line. To allow a customer to use the bathroom, we would have to let them walk behind the teller line, which you can see how unsafe that is. You are in a bank for all about 5 minutes tops, go before you leave your house.

  29. vladthepaler says:

    Does “having a full bladder” count as a “medical condition”? Should Texans obtain and carry around notes from their doctors saying their bladders are full, just in case? Or is the law designed to cause scenes like this:

    Customer: Can I use the bathroom?

    Employee: Why? What’s wrong?

    Customer: My bladder is full. I have to pee.

    Employee: Sorry, that’s not a medical condition. Go away.

  30. infinite8s says:

    @REBEKAHSUE – this might sound disgusting, but piss is actually pretty damn sterile so the lysol’s not gonna do anything that just wiping it off the seat will. In fact, if you are injured (ie open wound) while in the great outdoors and don’t have access to clean, sterile water, you can clean it with your own urine.

  31. angelmama says:

    After being in a car accident, I lost my job as office manager at an insurance agency. Immediately ready to work again, I contacted a personnel agency. The owner was very excited to meet with me as I have a very diverse and highly qualified background. He personally knows my best friend of over 26 years. He said, “We’ll take EXTRA care of you!” He told me they have 300 different tests that they put employment candidates through and to be sure to schedule enough time. The agency is 30 miles from my home and they knew that I had two employers to meet with on my way that morning. Still, I arrived early for my appointment with my work history and references in hand. The woman at the front desk asked if I have a financial background, I said yes. She said, “Unfortunately for you, that means a bunch of extra paperwork”. She handed me an even bigger stack of papers to fill out. I said, “I drove a long way. Before we get started, could you show me to the ladies room?” She said, “No.” I said, “Excuse me?” She said, “There’s a gas station down the street and on the corner that you can use.” I said, “Excuse me?” She said, “We don’t have public restrooms here. There’s a gas station you can go to.” I took all of my personal information back off of the clip board and left. No, I didn’t go to the gas station. And no, I didn’t go back to the agency. I wasn’t the “public”, I was registering as a client who was told that I needed to be there for a chunk of the day taking their myriad of tests. When I got home that evening, there was a message on my machine from the personnel agency. A “courtesy” call 28 minutes after I left and didn’t go back. As if I had time to find the gas station they were talking about and drive 30 miles back home in 28 minutes.
    I e-mailed the owner and told him that I was apalled. That even if I just wanted to wash my hands, I would have to get back in my car and navigate traffic to find a frigging gas station. I said I guessed I should be glad, however, that they didn’t discriminate between someone like me and your common, everyday street urchin. Then the “courtesy” call COMPLETELY pissed me off. All he had to say was that not allowing the “public” to use the restroom was a business decision they stand by and it’s a real shame I was offended by it. I got a job without their help.

  32. ambee says:

    I do not believe that there should be mandatory public restrooms. I do not mind letting a pregnant woman or a very small child use them occasionally. Even when the child is accompanied by an adult, it is amazing to see the mess they leave when I assume the parent would help them clean up after they are finished. After many years of cleaning up messes made by other people because I was being a friendly customer service rep, I decided to no longer let them use the restroom. If I worked at a gas station, restaurant, or grocery store and was paid to actually clean public restrooms then I would not mind as much. I do not think my boss should have to spend thousands of dollars to buy an entire new security system and the resources to clean up mess after mess that rude customers will make.
    The best comment I ever heard was when I told a customer that he could not use the restroom. He screamed at the top of his lungs, “I thought this was America, not Russia!” That cracked me up.