Anthropologie Must Face Complaint From Customer With Crohn’s Barred From Using Employee Restroom

Image courtesy of Alberto Cueto

Anthropologie will not be able to avoid having to explain why it allegedly violated Illinois state law by refusing to allow a customer with Crohn’s disease to use the employee restroom, resulting in the customer losing control of her bowels in the store.

Under the Illinois Restroom Access Act, retailers are required to allow a customer to use the employee toilet facilities during normal business hours under certain circumstances, including suffering from an eligible medical condition, such as Crohn’s disease.

In a lawsuit filed against Anthropologie, the plaintiff says she was denied access to the retailer’s restroom in March 2014, despite showing employees a Medical Alert Restroom Access Required Card, which serves to notify business owners or workers of her condition and need for a bathroom.

Immediately following the retailer’s refusal to allow her to use the restroom, the woman says she lost control of her bowels and defecated on the floor in front of fellow shoppers.

The complaint claims the incident caused the woman extreme emotional distress, leading her to not leave her home for days.

A trial court previously granted Anthropologie’s motion for dismissal, arguing that the plain text of the Act does not allow for a customer to sue the company.

However, the appeals court ruled [PDF] that the woman’s allegations were “sufficient to constitute extreme and outrageous conduct, especially given plaintiff’s allegations that she explained her particular ‘physical condition or peculiarity’ to defendant’s employee.”

While a violation of the Act generally results in a fine not to exceed $100, the appeals court argues that the punishment is not adequate, because, as a national retailer, Anthropologie has the funds to simply pay the fine anytime a customer with the condition is refused the restroom.

“It would make no sense for the statute to be read in such a way that a retailer can be held civilly liable for its actions when complying with the Act, but could not be held civilly liable for not complying with the Act at all,” the court ruled.

[via Courthouse News]