Senator Suggests Restaurant Employees Shouldn't Have to Wash Hands

PHOTO: Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, listens during a Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing for Loretta Lynch in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 28, 2015.Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Sen. Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, listens during a Senate Judiciary Committee nomination hearing for Loretta Lynch in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 28, 2015.

You can walk into almost any restaurant bathroom and see a health-code mandated sign that reads “Employees must wash hands before returning to work.” But one senator is suggesting that businesses should be free to ditch that regulation.

In a question-and-answer session Monday at the Bipartisan Policy Center, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, argued that restaurants should be allowed to “opt out” of certain regulations - such as employees washing their hands. Such a rule, he says, is an example of how America is “one of the most regulated nations in the history of the planet.”

According to Roll Call, the senator was recalling a time in 2010 when he had a chat with a woman on Starbucks’ health regulations.

“I said that I don’t have any problem with Starbucks if they choose to opt out of this policy as long as they post a sign that says, ‘We don’t require our employees to wash their hands after leaving the restroom.’ The market will take care of that,” Tillis said.

“If you let a business or industry opt out as long as they indicate through proper disclosure, through advertising, through employee literature, there’s this level of regulations that maybe they’re on the books,” Tillis said. “But maybe you can make a market based decision as to whether or not they should apply to you.”

The Republican senator from North Carolina went on to say that a move like that by a restaurant would probably result in it going out of business.

At the end of the discussion, Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet joked to Tillis, “I’m not sure if I’m going to shake your hand,” MSNBC reports.

In an interview with The Huffington Post Tuesday at the Capitol, Tillis denied making those remarks. "I didn't say that," Tillis said. "I think I had a blogger follow that was without a sense of humor. Obviously, I think that's important."

But he also defended his position in an interview with the Associated Press the same day, "Sometimes there are regulations that maybe we want to set a direction, but then let those who are regulated decide whether or not it makes sense."

Tillis' remarks come during a week when health issues, like child vaccinations, are being debated by politicians and the public.