According to the rabbis, such a situation causes men and women to violate the "Yichud" prohibition – the seclusion of a man and a woman who are not married to each other in a private area.
Rabbis Shmuel Wosner and Nissim Karelitz, the most senior "poskei Halacha" (arbiters of Jewish Law) in the Ashkenazi Orthodox public, have determined that such doors are considered locked even if no human action has been taken to lock them, and that therefore men and women must be careful not to be left alone behind them.
'Don't use lock mechanism'
A warning published by the "Halacha Watch", a body sponsored by the two rabbis' tribunals, argued that late Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, "the generation's great posek," had also warned against this halachic obstacle which can be found in clinics, workplaces, etc.
"Recently-introduced door handles almost seem like regular handles from the outside, and the handles can be shifted from the outside as well, but they have an automatic electrical locking that prevents the door from being opened from the outside," the ad explained.
"There is a 'Yichud' prohibition, and whoever is familiar with these handles could recognize them by paying attention."
The "Halacha Watch" called on the public to avoid using this locking mechanism, both in entry doors and in internal rooms, so as not to create an obstacle. It invited "places with special needs" to contact its people "in order to reach a proper solution."
The proposed solutions include keeping the door slightly open.