A Chicago company has demanded its employees limit daily bathroom breaks to an average of six minutes per day, or face discipline, according to a worker’s union, reports CNN. The union, Teamsters Local 743, issued a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, stating that the company — WaterSaver Faucet Co. — unreasonably punished 19 workers last month for “excessive use” of the bathrooms.
WaterSaver Faucet’s human resources department defines “excessive use of the bathroom as… 60 minutes or more over the last 10 working days,” according to the affidavit. One hour over 10 days equals, of course, six minutes daily. The bathroom issues began last year, when the company introduced swipe-card systems in the bathrooms, because, the company says, some employees “were spending way too much time in there, and not enough time on the manufacturing line.”
One hundred and twenty production hours were lost in May as a result of bathroom visits taken exclusive of sanctioned break times, says WaterSaver Faucet CEO Steve Kersten. No worker has been suspended or fired as a result of taking longer bathroom breaks, but the company has issued warnings. The company maintains a three-step “disciplinary process that starts with a verbal or written warning, which can then lead to a suspension, and finally a termination,” reports CNN.
WaterSaver Faucet Co. has initiated a rewards program that allows workers to earn a gift card totaling $20 each month if they don’t use the restroom at all during work hours. The workers’ union says that the company’s monitoring is an invasion of privacy. Union representative Nick Kreitman explains, “The company has spreadsheets on every union employee on how long they were in the bathroom… There have been meetings with workers and human resources where the workers had to explain what they were doing in the bathroom.”
The bathroom break limits are unrealistic, continued Kreitman, because the human body does not always “perform on cue,” notes CNN. Additionally, the company’s workers — which number 140 total — do not have paid sick days. Those who can’t risk losing a day’s wages may come into work sick, and spend more time in the restrooms.
CEO Kersten contends that the workers’ total breaks — which add up to one hour daily — are sufficient. During these sanctioned breaks, employees have unlimited access to restrooms, without electronic monitoring. He also says that he realizes workers may need the restrooms at other times of the day. “No one is stopped from going to the bathroom.” Yet he believes workers are using their phones in the restrooms during longer breaks, although phones are prohibited on the factory floor. “Our supposition is that some of the behavior is related to cell phones and texting… although I have no hard evidence,” Kersten told CNN.
The company and the workers’ union will meet later this week to discuss pay, sick days, and, most likely, the six-minute bathroom break.