Proposed NJ law requires diaper-changing stations in men’s restrooms
The typical family structure continues to evolve. Some New Jersey businesses may have to pay the price.
Under a proposed state law, public places — restaurants, retail stores and libraries, for example — with a diaper-changing station in its women's restroom would be required to install one in the men's restroom as well. And going forward, the new construction or significant renovation of restrooms in these places must equip restrooms for both males and females with such a station.
"Men are becoming more involved in the daily care of children," said Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera, D-Camden, whose measure cleared the Assembly Women and Children Committee on Feb. 14. "As such, our public facilities should reflect this changing dynamic and give them the safe accommodations that women have."
During the hearing, Mosquera noted that as a first-time mother, she's been "caught in situations" at establishments that had no changing stations in either gender's restroom.
There is currently no state statute requiring diaper-changing stations in places of public accommodation. The establishments that install stations do so voluntarily, and typically only offer the accommodation in women's restrooms, lawmakers said.
The bill points to a government study in which 90 percent of live-in fathers said they bathe, dress or diaper their children everyday or several days per week.
The legislation as is applies only to public establishments that accommodate more than 25 people and permit children over three years of age. Violators face a petty disorderly person's offense and a maximum fine of $500.
Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Restaurant and Hospitality Association, said applying this rule to eateries as small as those that accommodate 26 or more customers is "just not feasible at this point."
"What you're asking of them is to reconfigure and break down walls of existing restaurants," she said. "A small little cafe that only has 25, 30, 35 seats – typically those bathrooms are going to be smaller."
And in many restaurants, men's rooms are typically smaller than women's rooms, she added.
Halvorsen said Mosquera's legislation may be better steered toward new construction only, and only those projects that can accommodate at least 75 or 100 people.