Bathroom Breaks: Can Employers Monitor Your Time?

Teamsters Local 743 in Chicago have filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) stating that as of June of this year, WaterSaver Faucet Co. has unfairly disciplined 19 of its employees for “excessive use” of bathrooms.

Background on Bathroom Breaks

WaterSaver Faucet Co. is limiting bathroom breaks to 30 minutes per week (or 6 minutes per day) and offering a rewards program that allows employees to earn a gift card of up to $20 each month if they don’t use the bathroom at all during their shifts – which some have already earned.

The company’s owner said that 120 hours of production were lost in May because of time spent in the bathroom. This is what prompted the company to install a tracking system that requires employees to swipe their ID cards for access into the bathroom. Cell phones are banned on the factory floor and the company believed that employees were going into the bathrooms to text or use their phones during their shifts.

WaterSaver Faucet Co. does provide workers with three separate breaks during their shift totaling one hour. Employees are given unlimited access to the bathrooms without the electronic system during that time.

The NLRB is deferring final judgment so the two parties can resolve this through arbitration.

Bathroom Break Refusal Lands Company in Court

A.M. vs. Albertsons, Inc. A.M. was a cashier at an Albertson’s store in Fairfax, CA who was suffering from dry mouth, a result of cancer treatment. A.M. needed to increase her consumption of water and kept a water bottle with her at all times – a practice normally not allowed for Albertson’s cashiers – which caused her to need to make several trips to the bathroom during her shift. This arrangement was to be accommodated by her managers. However, in February 2005, a new manager who was unaware of A.M.’s medical condition repeatedly refused to let her leave her cash register in order to use the bathroom. Unable to hold it any longer, A.M. lost control of her bladder in front of customers.

Because Albertson’s failed to provide her with reasonable accommodation for her disability, they were found to have violated her rights under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Rules and Guidelines

OSHA’s guideline on bathroom breaks is to ensure that workers do not develop medical issues as a result of not being permitted to use the bathroom. OSHA law states that all work environments must be equipped with properly working restrooms at all times. They must also be separated by gender.

To read the Code of Federal Regulations, click here.


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