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Lawmakers push 'Potty Parity' at federal sites

By Ed O'Keefe

Members of Congress who've spent the year fighting over health-care have found an area on which to strike a bipartisan accord: bathrooms.

Democrats and Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee joined together on Thursday to introduce the "Potty Parity Act," a bill that would require future federal buildings to have a 1 to 1 ratio for toilets in men's and women's restrooms. The mandate would also apply to buildings leased by the government.

A lack of restrooms in government buildings constructed decades before women joined the federal workforce en masse has been known to cause long lines for female staffers, explained the bill's lead sponsor, Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.). Some women have suffered work-related problems and been fired as a result of their inability to take the time necessary to address health or medical concerns, he said.

“As the number of women in all sectors of employment and facets of American life continue to grow exponentially, the Potty Parity Act is necessary not only for the advancement of gender parity, but also to ensure the general well being and health care of women in our society."

Towns tried and failed to get the bill passed during the last Congress, but it might get an assist this time around from the support of the committee's ranking member, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

Lest you think this is just lawmakers going out of their way to keep the federal workforce happy, potty parity has been a big issue nationwide, especially in the construction of new sports arenas, where a lack of facilities for women has been known to take them away from the game for extended periods of time. Advocates have been known to threaten cities with sexual discrimination lawsuits if they didn't ensure equal restroom access.

Is this a problem where you work?

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 18, 2010; 11:49 AM ET
Categories:  Congress, Workplace Issues  
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In 2010?
How hard is it to figure out how to have unisex restrooms?

Posted by: robjdisc | March 18, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

I've lived in CA before & after this law went into affect & believe me, it is GREAT. I have no problem with going into a busy men's bathroom (with my husband as escort) and using a stall when there are 100+ women in line, but I know many women are not comfortable with that. It's so nice to not have to wait ages in line (or tell my husband to go ahead without me--I'll call when I'm finished...eventually). I wish this sort of thing didn't have to be legislated, but it does need to be--and I'm all for it!

Posted by: BellaGertrude | March 18, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

robjdisc, if we have unisex bathrooms, then wait times will increase for men. AND WE CAN'T HAVE THAT.

Posted by: reiflame1 | March 18, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Is this really an issue of parity in the number of commodes, or parity between the number of commodes in the women's restrooms and the number of combined commodes and urinals in men's restrooms? I have never seen a disparity in the first case, but there are definitely differences in the latter based caused by the space stalls take up vs. urinals. Solution? Female urinals like they have in Europe

Posted by: loaf667 | March 18, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

did they have to use the word "potty"?

Posted by: steampunk | March 18, 2010 12:58 PM | Report abuse

Typical of politicians to think of nothing but crap.

Posted by: blackforestcherry | March 18, 2010 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Give me a break!!! Have they nothing else to fill their plate with.Stuff like this only makes the solution to " term limits" something that must happen.

Posted by: djnumerouno | March 18, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

"Potty Parity"...What a complete waste of time. We don't need a law fir this. The fact is, women should be able to utilize stalls in men's rooms and men should be permitted to utilize stalls in women's room...if and when the need arises.

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | March 18, 2010 3:37 PM | Report abuse

The American Restroom Association has a more nuanced position on this subject at this web page

Posted by: w4nng1 | March 18, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

there's an American Restroom Association??? Learn something new everyday!

Posted by: Junior3 | March 18, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

The American Restroom Association??? OMG...

Posted by: thetan | March 18, 2010 4:12 PM | Report abuse

1:1? Really? Shouldn't it be 1:2 m:f?

Do urinals count as toilets? Where are the details?

Posted by: corrections | March 18, 2010 4:50 PM | Report abuse

The Federal building where I work has no problem. We are over-toileted. The reason, I've heard, is that the Jim Crow-era building had 'white' and 'colored' restrooms, so we inherited an abundance of porcelain.

Posted by: ArtCee | March 18, 2010 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Just because people defecate on the toilet seats and urinate on the floor doesn't make it a "colored" restroom.

Posted by: fireball72 | March 18, 2010 7:48 PM | Report abuse

Anyone who has ever waited in a long line outside a women's restroom at a theatre or sporting event knows that the parity ratio of toilet facilities should be 2 to 1 (female to male). This is common sense. Come on, folks. Because of clothing, anatomy, and other mysterious things, women take longer in the restroom. Please alter this unrealistic view of "parity." Shout out what we need, gals.

Posted by: gter | March 18, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

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