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Bathroom Bill Moves Toward Vote in House

The law would require retailers to let people with certain medical conditions use employee bathrooms.

A bill that would require retail stores to open their private bathrooms to people with certain medical conditions is making its way through the House and could be up for vote by the end of the session next month.

The measure would mandate that any retailer with at least two employees present grant bathroom access to people who carry a doctor's note for certain medical conditions like gastrointestinal disorders, or who have a colostomy bag. Violations would carry a fine of $100-$200. But the law would not require that retailers improve their facilities, and it would protect employees from lawsuits.

"We're optimistic that it will pass the House," said Ted Philips, the chief of staff for the bill's sponsor, Rep. Louis Kafka (D-Stoughton).

On Wednesday the House Committee on Steering Policy and Scheduling, which Kafka chairs, recommended that the Legislature pass the bill. Before that, the Joint Committee on Public Health recommended it. Now it's before the last group, the Committee on Bills in the Third Reading, before it is sent to the House for a vote.

Kafka first filed the bill in 2009 on behalf of one of his contituents in Sharon who has Crohn's disease. It passed the House in 2010 but died in the Senate, Philips said. 

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