Let's say for some reason a business owner decided to make all their restrooms unisex. These are not single-person rooms, but larger restrooms with numerous toilets (and possible urinals).

Is there any reason this would not be allowed legally? I know there are requirements for restrooms, but I'm not aware of any requirement that explicitly states there must be separate accommodations for separate sexes. Can an owner provide only unisex multi-person restroom if they so chose?

Let's use my home state of Maryland where state law is relevant.

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    Jan 6 at 18:00

4 Answers 4



U.S. Federal Regulations

An employer having only unisex, multi-person restrooms is a violation of OSHA regulations. Sex-specific restrooms are required, at least for the employees, unless the restrooms are only single-occupancy.

While, as another answer mentions, California has a law authorizing cities in California to require restrooms to be gender-neutral, such laws would be unenforceable as preempted by federal law unless/until the OSHA regulation is changed.

(For those not familiar with U.S. regulations, OSHA is the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which regulates workplace safety. Its regulations apply to the entire United States.)

29 CFR 1910.141(c)(1)(i) is the relevant regulation here (emphasis mine):

Except as otherwise indicated in this paragraph (c)(1)(i), toilet facilities, in toilet rooms separate for each sex, shall be provided in all places of employment in accordance with table J-1 of this section. The number of facilities to be provided for each sex shall be based on the number of employees of that sex for whom the facilities are furnished. Where toilet rooms will be occupied by no more than one person at a time, can be locked from the inside, and contain at least one water closet, separate toilet rooms for each sex need not be provided. Where such single-occupancy rooms have more than one toilet facility, only one such facility in each toilet room shall be counted for the purpose of table J-1.

There is an explicit exception to the requirement for the restrooms to be sex-specific for single-occupancy restrooms, but there is no exception for restrooms designed to be occupied by multiple people as you've described.

This particular regulation applies only to restrooms that are available to employees (as opposed to those exclusively for use of patrons.) Requirements for those exclusively for use of patrons are set by state-level plumbing codes.

Maryland Plumbing Codes

While the OSHA regulation above does not apply to restrooms for use only by patrons, Maryland's plumbing codes require separate facilities for each sex for those, too, with a few exceptions.

Section 403.2 of Maryland's plumbing code (emphasis mine):

403.2 Separate Facilities

Where plumbing fixtures are required, separate facilities shall be provided for each sex.


  1. Separate facilities shall not be required for dwelling units and sleeping units.
  2. Separate facilities shall not be required in structures or tenant spaces with a total occupant load, including both employees and customers, of 15 or fewer.
  3. Separate facilities shall not be required in mercantile occupancies in which the maximum occupant load is 100 or fewer.
  4. Separate facilities shall not be required in business occupancies in which the maximum occupant load is 25 or fewer.

403.2.1 Family or Assisted-Use Toilet Facilities Serving as Separate Facilities

Where a building or tenant space requires a separate toilet facility for each sex and each toilet facility is required to have only one water closet, two family or assisted-use toilet facilities shall be permitted to serve as the required separate facilities. Family or assisted-use toilet facilities shall not be required to be identified for exclusive use by either sex as required by Section 403.4.

  • If I read this correctly, as long as you put a sink/tap in each cubicle and have no urinals, you could have only gender-neutral toilets, no?
    – Nobody
    Jan 6 at 20:57
  • @Nobody Which part? For the OSHA regulation, you can have only separate, single-person restrooms and satisfy the requirement, but I read the question as explicitly excluding that ("These are not single-person rooms, but larger restrooms with numerous toilets.") However, even that would not satisfy the Maryland plumbing code unless the business was small enough to only require 2 toilet fixtures or meets at least one of the stated exceptions. Note that "toilet room" in the OSHA regulation refers to the actual room (i.e. the restroom,) not just the partitioned off part where a toilet fixture is.
    – reirab
    Jan 6 at 21:05
  • @reirab My question was exactly if you couldn't build toilet cubicles that meet the requirements of toilet rooms and I think there is no requirement that the required number of toilet cubicles be provided all in the same toilet room.
    – Nobody
    Jan 6 at 21:12
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    "as opposed to those exclusively for use of patrons": I suspect that it is not necessary to exclude employees from mixed-gender restrooms. Rather, it is likely necessary to supply sufficient segregated restrooms for employees. If there are additional gender-neutral facilities for customers, there's no reason to designate them for the exclusive use of customers.
    – phoog
    Jan 7 at 9:25
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    @phoog True. As long as you separately have all of the requirements met for the restrooms that must be available for employees, then there's no reason that you couldn't also allow employees to use others beyond what are required to be available for them, as long as the other ones also comply with whatever the local state plumbing/building codes require.
    – reirab
    Jan 7 at 12:48

Gender-inclusive multi-person restroom facilities are allowed universally in Canada. I cannot prove a negative (i.e. demonstrating that there does not exist any prohibition on this kind of facility), but I can point to examples that have faced no legal challenges.1 See for example, and another.

Most existing designs use stalls with closing doors, along with shared space for hand washing, etc. But some provide urinals. For example, the Canadian Human Rights Museum simply notes on signage what amenities are present in each restroom facility and then people choose which room to use regardless of gender:

By the end of this week, all washrooms signage will be changed to include the specific amenities available in each space, including icons for toilets, urinals and adult or child change tables.

1. This of course leaves open the possibility that there exists a prohibition but that it not been used by anyone to challenge such restroom designs, for a variety of reasons: acceptability of the practice, lack of resources, etc.

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    I've noticed that new schools being built dont even have mens and womens washrooms anymore (in my part of Nova Scotia). Just a set of fully enclosed bathrooms with a toilet and sink, along with a bigger trough sink outside the rooms if you just need to wash your hands.
    – JMac
    Jan 6 at 13:54
  • The building codes for Ontario seem much less straightforward on this than the Maryland plumbing codes mentioned in my answer, but it does appear that they at least require separate fixtures for each sex, at least for buildings above a certain size or occupancy. There is a similar exception to Maryland's where, if only 1 water closet is required for each sex, 2 unisex single-occupancy washrooms with a water closet can be used instead. The various subsections under Section 3.7.4 appear to be where most of the relevant requirements are.
    – reirab
    Jan 7 at 14:20
  • It may be that the Ontario codes allow for the fixures to be in the same room as the OP asked about, though, provided that they are separate fixtures. That part does not seem clear to me either way from the Ontario code, but the requirements are spread around, so it's very possible that there's an additional requirement about the actual rooms that I haven't seen.
    – reirab
    Jan 7 at 14:22

California passed a relevant law, SB 1194

Notwithstanding Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 401.0) of the California Plumbing Code (Part 5 of Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations), a city, county, or city and county may require new or renovated public toilet facilities within its jurisdiction to be designed, constructed, and identified for use by all genders instead of the design standards for separate facilities for men and women found in the applicable provisions in Chapter 4 of the California Plumbing Code

This permits but does not require lower levels of government in the state to mandate "only unisex" bathrooms, when such bathrooms are newly constructed or renovated. So it is not just legal in California, it is required.

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    Where is it required? Have any jurisdictions actually imposed this requirement?
    – Barmar
    Jan 6 at 15:24
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    I know a coffee shop here in Texas that would comply with this requirement, since this statute doesn't say whether the public toilet is single-use or not. In that coffee shop, it's one person at a time. This therefore doesn't answer the question in any way, which is about multiple-use and specifies New Jersey.
    – Wastrel
    Jan 6 at 17:03
  • OSHA as a federal regulation sets the minimum allowable for employee baths; California can only demand more strict rules, not less in this regards. If OSHA demands two employee rooms unless they are one-toilet-one-sink & lockable, California can't demand one room for stalls, but might demand three without a problem.
    – Trish
    Jan 7 at 9:07
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    @Trish the shortened form "bath" for a room is typically limited, in the US at least, to the description of residences for sale or rent, where "half bath" is a room with only a toilet and sink and "bath" has those plus an actual bath or shower. A public facility is more typically a "restroom" or possibly a "bathroom." (Because I dislike the term "restroom" and realize that some find "bathroom" coarse, I usually ask for the "men's room," which it looks like I'll have to stop doing.) In this context I'd probably stick with the term in the regulation, "toilet facilities."
    – phoog
    Jan 7 at 9:46

In the workplace, the law allows a shared space for washing hands, but the toilets themselves must be in a room with a locking door (and separate handwashing facilities) if the adjoining space is shared.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992

Sanitary conveniences
20.—(1) Suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences shall be provided at readily accessible places.

(2) Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), sanitary conveniences shall not be suitable unless—

(a) the rooms containing them are adequately ventilated and lit;
(b) they and the rooms containing them are kept in a clean and orderly condition; and
(c) separate rooms containing conveniences are provided for men and women except where and so far as each convenience is in a separate room the door of which is capable of being secured from inside.


Separate [Washing] facilities are provided for men and women, except where and so far as they are provided in a room the door of which is capable of being secured from inside and the facilities in each such room are intended to be used by only one person at a time.

The government is intending to raise legislation to make unisex toilets cubicles illegal in all public buildings. This will include the public-facing parts of schools and hospitals.

All new public buildings should have separate male and female toilets, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has announced today (4 July 2022).

The approach will mean women, who may need to use facilities more often for example because of pregnancy and sanitary needs, have appropriate facilities.

Press release: All public buildings to have separate male and female toilets

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