Potty Parity Act should be basedon more than anecdotal data

By Joe Davidson
Friday, May 28, 2010

The Federal Diary gets lots of mail, some of it fit to print. Here are a few letters from readers.

A column about legislation designed to develop a more equitable gender balance in toilets in federal buildings brought this response:

Thanks for spotlighting the legislation on this problem. It is funny, absolutely, but only if one is not desperate and wants to joke to pass the time while waiting in line.

I'm a biomedical librarian employed by the federal government. In my previous position, at the University of Michigan, I was once asked by a faculty member for research on comparative restroom use by men and women.

The core findings were that, for an equal population of men and women, three times the number of "units" were needed for women as for men in order for the lines to move at the same speed. The reasons include more complicated clothing, menstrual periods, having children with us and simple physics preventing us from sharing a urinal. We're also slower to leave the restroom because more women wash their hands. That also has been documented.

When I was collecting this information, I spoke to the Ann Arbor state representative, who noted that the Michigan law covering restroom construction for state facilities had been changed when older male legislators became tired of waiting for their wives.

I lack time and energy to pursue this with members of Congress, but I do wish that the proposed legislation were based on research findings instead of guesswork and estimates. There are social costs to this, particularly with our aging population, and fiscal implications.

-- Pam Sieving, Bethesda

Dependents' benefits

A column with the headline "Health legislation aims to help employees' adult children" didn't draw a sympathetic response from this reader:

I fail to get exercised about the benefits of children of federal employees or retirees when I, as a retiree from the Department of Defense, am required, in order to continue my health benefits into retirement, to pay for a family plan even though I have no dependents under the age of 26 or in fact no dependents except my spouse.

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