CAN YOU LEGALLY LOCK A WORKPLACE BATHROOM IN ARIZONA? SOMEONE AT OUR WORKPLACE KEEPS CLOGGING THE URINALS WITH TOILET PAPER AND OTHER ITEMS AND I WANT TO LOCK IT AND MAKE EVERYONE GET THE KEY SO IT CAN BE CHECKED WHEN THEY ARE DONE.
You will be glad to hear that locking the restrooms and requiring employees to request the key is perfectly legal in Arizona. This is true, as long as any employee is given the restroom key whenever they request it. If a supervisor or manager began saying “no” when the restroom key was requested, that would be illegal under state law. If the key is not available because someone else is using the bathroom, that would be acceptable. But just denying a worker the right to use the restroom when nature calls would be a problem.
In order to avoid discrimination based on sex, the employer should lock both men’s and women’s restrooms.
Put another way, as long as employees have access to a bathroom, it doesn’t matter if they need a key or not.
Having locked restrooms is not that unusual in the workplace. Most large office buildings, for example, keep the restrooms locked for security reasons. Both customers and employees must ask for a key.
Interestingly enough, the Arizona Department of Safety and Health or ADOSH, has specifically addressed this very issue. ADOSH is the state worker safety agency in Arizona. According to the organization’s safety newsletter for Winter 2007, “OSHA standards require that toilet facilities be made available and ADOSH has interpreted this to mean that an employer must provide the facilities and allow employees to access them when needed. Requiring employees to first obtain a key would be ok, so long as there is no barrier to obtaining it. In other words, the key must be made available upon request.”
This may not be the best way to solve the problem, though. It’s probable that the locked bathroom will work, as long as a manager checks it after each person uses the restroom. The minute the manager stops checking the restroom, the vandalism is likely to begin again. That means hours of wasted time for the manager over a year, checking the bathroom.
A better solution might be to put an inexpensive video camera OUTSIDE the bathroom door for a few weeks. (Putting the camera inside the bathroom is a violation of federal privacy laws.) Check the bathroom frequently for vandalism, and you will probably be able to catch the responsible person. Then the person responsible can be disciplined or terminated, which will also discourage anyone else considering vandalism. (Note: in some states it may not be legal to use a surveillance camera without informing employees first, and obtaining their written permission.)
Some employers would be tempted to post a “dummy” camera that doesn’t actually take any pictures, and tell the employees that they were being watched. This might also be effective.
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