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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.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 19th, 2008 at 1:47 pm and is filed under
Workplace Health & Safety, Workplace Management.
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  1. Travis Says:

    My employer has desided to lock the bathroom becauase someone is going on the sink. So they decided to lock the bathrooms, and you now have to ask for a key. But they have not actually done that yet. They have locked the mens room, and put an out of order sign on it. On the ladies bathroom it says not for employie use, go to the gas station. I beleave they cannot do that. But once they lock the bathrooms and have a key, I know they can make you ask for a key. Here is the problem. We are a water and fire restoration company, and respond to a call 24 hours a day. The suporvisor is not always there during the day, and rarely there at night. What happens when I need to use th bathroom, and no one is there who has a key?

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Travis! This is a tough situation. Yes, under OSHA regulations employees on all shifts should have access to bathrooms. For a complete discussion, please post your question on our sister site for employees at And thanks for reading! Caitlin

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  4. Caitlin Says:

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  6. Caitlin Says:

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  8. Caitlin Says:

    Check back often, tommy! We post 5 days per week!~ Caitlin

  9. Andy Says:

    Our workplace restrooms have door handle locks that can easily be popped open with a screwdriver, or even a coin. Do you know if the state of South Carolina requires a “keyed” lock on restrooms for the added security?

  10. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Andy! South Carolina has no worker safety statutes, so the relevant regulations are the OSHA standards. Those standards require only that restroom doors lock, not that a key be necessary to unlock them.

    Obviously, any employee who pops open a locked restroom with a coin or screwdriver, and walks in on a coworker using the bathroom, should be severely disciplined. A member of the public who does this may be guilty of a crime, and charges should be filed with the police.

    The best practice is for employers to provide heavy doors on restrooms and a deadbolt that can be fastened from the inside. This is so that employees can take refuge in the restroom if they are attacked, robbed or in a hostage situation. However, there is no law that requires an employer to take these measures. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  11. Justin Says:

    yes we have 2 bathrooms at work. a mens restroom and a womans restroom. the women were getting mad that someone was making a mess in the womans restroom. so now there is a lock on the womans restroom only and only the women have a key to get in it. it that acceptable?

  12. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Justin! No, ideally both restrooms would be locked to avoid the appearance of illegal discrimination based on sex. As long as employees are given the key promptly when it is requested, it is legal to lock the restrooms. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

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