Lawmakers ponder 'potty parity'
By The Post's Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson:
A House committee heard testimony Wednesday morning on legislation designed to develop a more equitable sexual balance in the number of toilets in federal buildings.
Nicknamed the Potty Parity Act, the bill would require the number of toilets available for women to equal or exceed the number of toilets and urinals in men's restrooms.
Under the bill sponsored by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the requirement would apply to federal buildings constructed in the future and current properties that would undergo major renovations.
"I am certain that every woman in this room has frequently experienced the inconvenience, as well as the discomfort, caused by an insufficient number of women's restroom facilities," Towns said to a hearing room almost filled with supporters, mostly women, from his Brooklyn district.
Testimony by the General Services Administration said that since the 1980s, its standards have called for the number of toilets in women's restrooms to equal the number of toilets and urinals in men's rooms.
Many federal buildings, however, were constructed before the 1980s.
Nonetheless, Robert A. Peck, the GSA's public buildings commissioner, said his agency generally does not get complaints about the lack of facilities for females in office buildings.
Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-Calif.) is a co-sponsor of the bill, but suggested it may need amending to take into account workplaces that are overwhelmingly populated by one sex or the other, such as the Pentagon, which has mostly male employees.
Though it's the kind of issue that elicits snickers, potty parity really is a serious matter.
Former District mayor Sharon Pratt told the committee that "the disparity in restrooms is glaring, inconvenient, enormously inefficient and downright unfair."
And Kathryn H. Anthony, an architecture professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that being forced to wait in line for restrooms is a form of gender bias.
"Delaying voiding can result in serious medical conditions," she said in remarks submitted to the committee.
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| May 12, 2010; 2:05 PM ET
Categories: Congress, Workplace Issues
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