Ally’s Law requires that retail businesses with employee toilet facilities allow customers with specific medical conditions to access them if the need arises.

People with certain medical conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), sometimes need to use the restroom urgently. This can be difficult if they are out of the house or workplace, as not all businesses have public restrooms.

Many states in the United States have passed the Restroom Access Act, also known as Ally’s Law, to acknowledge this medical need.

Read on to learn more about Ally’s Law, including where it applies and how it works.

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Ally’s Law requires retail establishments to allow people with certain medical conditions, such as IBD, to access an employee restroom if no public facilities are available and they have an urgent need.

The law got its name from Ally Bain, a young woman from Illinois who has IBD. As of 2015, approximately 3 million adults in the U.S. reported having IBD, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

When Ally was 14 years old and shopping with her mother in a large retail store, she experienced a Crohn’s disease flare, which included a sudden urge to use the restroom. There were no public restrooms, so she asked to use the employee restroom. The manager denied Ally access, and she had an accident in the store.

Ally and her mother met with Illinois state representative Kathy Ryg to draft a bill allowing people to use an employee restroom if they have a medical condition and are in urgent need. The bill became law in Illinois in August 2005. Since then, several other states have passed the Restroom Access Act.

Ally’s Law falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. This Act protects people with disabilities from discrimination.

Inflammatory bowel diseases

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Examples of some of the conditions that fall under the Restroom Access Act include:

Ally’s Law also covers pregnancy as a medical condition in some states.

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The states that currently recognize Ally’s Law are:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Washington D.C.
  • Wisconsin

In most cases, these states have passed the Act as a result of grassroots efforts by those with IBD and their supporters. Other states are currently developing similar laws.

In some states, business owners have strongly opposed the Restroom Access Act over fears of liability or concerns that some people will abuse the law. However, there is little evidence to support these concerns.

The law in each state usually requires a person to show proof of an eligible medical condition to a business owner or employee.

Proof may be in the form of a document that a medical professional has signed stating that the person has a condition that may require the immediate use of a restroom. Alternatively, it might be an identification card that a national organization has issued.

The law may vary slightly from one state to another. For example, some states include pregnancy as a suitable condition while others do not. Not all states accept an identification card in place of a signed medical document.

Some businesses may be exempt from the Restroom Access Act. The Act does not require those with fewer than three employees, for example, to let a customer use an employee restroom, as it may leave the store open to damage or theft.

The law does not require retail stores to alter their facilities in any way for people with eligible conditions.

Establishments are also not liable if a customer sustains an injury while using an employee restroom unless there is evidence of negligence on the part of the business.

Those with a relevant medical condition, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, can seek additional support from the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation.

Members can get an “I Can’t Wait” card, which states that they have a medical condition that requires urgent restroom access.

Alternatively, the Crohn’s & Colitis website provides additional information on IBD. People with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis can obtain a Restroom Access Card from this website.

If a business denies a person with valid documentation access to a restroom, they may incur a fine or another punishment. The penalties vary from state to state.

In Washington, first-time offenders receive a warning letter. Refusing access for the second time is a class 2 civil infraction.

In Massachusetts, there is a $100 fine for a first-time offense, which doubles for a second offense.

A person with an eligible condition and valid documentation can contact their local law enforcement agency if a business refuses to give them access to a restroom.

If the local law enforcement agency fails to deal with the matter, it is best to contact an elected official, such as:

  • the mayor
  • the county executive
  • a local or state representative

It may also be helpful to contact local news agencies or a national organization to bring attention to the issue.

What is the origin of Ally’s Law?

Ally’s Law, also known as the Restroom Access Act, originated after Ally Bain, a teenager with Crohn’s disease, was denied access to a restroom at a retail store, resulting in her soiling herself.

This incident led Ally and her mother to advocate for a law that would ensure people with similar medical conditions could use employee-only restrooms when public restrooms are unavailable.

What is the Ally’s Law in Ohio?

Ally’s Law is recognized in Ohio. This law mandates that retail establishments with employee-only restrooms must allow customers with specific medical conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, to use these facilities if a public restroom is unavailable.

What is the Ally’s Law in Chicago?

Ally’s Law is recognized in Chicago, Illinois. This legislation requires retail businesses that have restrooms designated for employees only to permit customers with certain medical conditions, like Crohn’s disease, to use these facilities when public restrooms are not accessible.

Some people require immediate and urgent access to a restroom. If a public restroom is not available, they may be able to use an employee-only restroom, provided that they meet specific criteria.

These include living in a state that recognizes the Restroom Access Act, having an eligible medical condition, and carrying the appropriate documentation.

Identification cards are available from national organizations for people with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Alternatively, a doctor can provide an individual with the necessary documentation.

If businesses do not comply with Ally’s Law, people can contact law enforcement or an elected official.

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