Proposed Law Would Finally Allow NYC's Food Delivery Drivers to Use Restaurant Bathrooms
During a Community Board 7 Transportation Committee meeting earlier this month, Ken Couglin proposed a resolution called "Let Our Workers Go," that would encourage New York City restaurants to allow third-party delivery drivers to use the restaurants' restrooms when they arrive to pick up their orders.
"[M]any food delivery workers complain that the restaurants they pick up deliveries from are denying them access to the restaurant's restrooms," the text of the resolution read, according to Streetsblog NYC. "Given New York City's dearth of public restrooms, this leaves delivery workers few if any legal options to relieve themselves or to wash their hands."
If the restaurants did not let delivery drivers have access to the bathroom facilities, Coughlin suggested that should be taken into consideration when management renews or applies for a liquor or sidewalk cafe license. "They risked their lives for us over the past year, so we didn't have to risk our lives going outside," Coughlin said. "They deserve better. We need to start treating them as if their lives and their working conditions mattered. And bathroom access is as good a place as any to start."
Other members of the Transportation Committee were appalled by the suggestion that delivery drivers should be allowed to—gasp!—take care of one of the most basic bodily functions during their shifts, calling Coughlin's proposal "horrifying on all levels," "crazy," and "embarrassing." After being steadily berated for the remaining minutes of their meeting, the resolution was ultimately tabled until a proper hearing could be held.
But that might not need to happen because, on Thursday, the City Council will be introducing a legislative package that would address—and hopefully improve—the working conditions of the city's delivery workers. According to The City, the six bills include measures to prohibit third-party apps from charging fees in order for workers to receive payments, to ensure that they receive tips and gratuities, and to allow drivers to set a maximum limit on the distance they're willing to (or able to) go to make a delivery, without fear of reprisals or negative ratings on third-party apps.
And yes, the legislation would also give them bathroom access while they're collecting orders from bars or restaurants. Councilperson Carlina Rivera (D-Manhattan) has also proposed fines for any bar, restaurant, or other eatery that does not allow drivers to take care of that kind of business; a first-offender would face a $50 fine, which would increase to $100 for each additional bathroom denial.
"They deserve to be treated with respect, public health crisis or not—and that includes access to basic amenities like a bathroom while on the job, just like every other worker in the city," Rivera told the outlet.
Despite the negative pushback from members of the CB7 Transportation Committee, giving delivery drivers restroom access isn't unreasonable, nor is it unheard of. Last November, McDonald's apologized to delivery drivers in the United Kingdom after it was accused of denying them use of restaurant bathrooms. The Health and Safety Executive, a government agency that independently regulates workplace conditions, requires that delivery drivers in the UK are allowed access to "suitable sanitary conveniences" while they're working.
"We apologise to any courier that has been affected," McDonald's said at the time, according to the BBC. "We are sorry to hear that on some occasions this guidance has not been implemented, and we will be reminding our restaurant teams about the policy."