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Is it legal to restrict workplace bathroom visits to a certian number a day??

My sister works in Pennsylvania for a large insurance company. Recently, her employer issued a policy that would limit bathroom visits to three visits a day per a special key card. If you went over your number of visits for the day you would be denied entry to the bathroom or have to ask a manager to gain access.My sister suffers from several medical conditions, one of which is IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) among a long list of other diagnosed medical conditions. Is this legal?? Does she have any rights??

The way the question is worded in the title is deceptive. The company is not limiting bathroom visits to 3 per day. That probably would be illegal.

Believe it or not, restroom use at work is a hot topic in the world of HR and occupational safety. There are two issues here: general restroom usage by employees, and this employee’s specific medical condition.  

The standards for restroom usage are set by OSHA, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (About half the states have a state safety agency instead. However, by law, those agencies must have standards that are at least as strict as OSHA’s. A few states have laws on the books regarding restroom breaks. Please post a question mentioning the state for a more specific answer.)   OSHA has general regulations on access to restrooms. However, OSHA reviews employer restrictions on restroom usage on a case-by-case basis, to determine of they are reasonable. So to get a final determination, contact OSHA or the state worker safety agency.  There are OSHA opinion letters on restroom usage here and here.  Under the general industry sanitation standards 29 CFR 1910.141, employers must provide restrooms for workers and permit reasonable access to toilet facilities when the employee needs to use them. Employers who violate these worker safety standards are subject to fines and penalties.  OSHA permits employers to set reasonable limits on restroom usage. For example, in a factory setting where one missing employee can shut down the entire production line, an employee may have to signal for a replacement before using the restroom. However, in cases where the employee had to wait too long for the replacement, OSHA has ruled that the employer is in violation of the standard.  

One OSHA compliance letter says that “Certainly any restriction that the employer imposes on bathroom use, such as the ones you describe, would have to be reviewed by an OSHA compliance officer on a case by case basis to determine if it is reasonable and does not interfere with the requirement that employees be allowed to use toilet facilities when they need to do so.” (The added emphasis is ours.)

In the situation described, each employee has a key card which can be used up to 3 times per day to unlock the restroom. When an employee needs access to the restroom more than 3 times in a single day, the employee must ask a manager to unlock the restroom.

Women in particular might have a need to use the restroom more than 3 times per day, at certain times of the month. Pregnant women may also need to use the restroom more frequently than others. It would be interesting to see the results of a lawsuit on sex discrimination on this issue. While this policy may not be intended to discriminate against women, it would seem to have a dispariate impact on working conditions for female employees.

Our best guess is that OSHA would find this insurance company’s restriction reasonable, as long as the manager promptly unlocked the restroom whenever an employee asked, and as long as there were not negative consequences to the employee for restroom usage in excess of 3 times per day.

However, if the manager sometimes refused to permit an employee access to the restroom, or if the wait for the manager to unlock the door was unreasonably long, then OSHA might find that the employer was in violation of federal safety standards.

If employees were permitted restroom access only 3 times per day and didn’t have the option of asking a manager to unlock the restroom, or if the manager sometimes denied access to the toilets, that would almost certainly be a violation of OSHA standards.

The second issuer here is the employee’s medical condition. IBS can make it necessary for an employee to have access to the restroom more frequently. In this situation, IBS may qualify as a disability under ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is enforced by the EEOC.

The ADA requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities. Allowing more frequent or even unlimited restroom access would almost certainly be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. This employee should contact the HR department and request more frequent restroom access as a reasonable accommodation under the law. 

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008 at 11:06 am and is filed under
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60 Responses to “Is it legal to restrict workplace bathroom visits to a certian number a day??”

  1. Johnnie Llanes Says:

    My girl friend is required to clock out when visiting the bathroom there by reducing her pay. Is this legal? There are no set limits by the company presently

  2. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Johnnie! This is probably only legal if your girlfriend is taking longer than 20 minutes for each bathroom break. Under the federal FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act, employees must be paid for any breaks shorter than 20 minutes. This would include bathroom breaks. This law applies to most employers in the U.S.

    If an employer was requiring employees to clock in and out for bathroom breaks, just as a way to track time worked, that would be legal — as long as the employee was paid for any break shorter than 20 minutes. But docking the employee’s wages for such short breaks is not legal in most states. For a more complete discussion, feel free to post your question on our sister site at HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  3. Roy Stewart Says:

    A pal encoraged me to check out this website, brill post, fanstatic read… keep up the nice work!

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Thanks Roy!~ Caitlin

  5. Ayako Magbitang Says:

    Thanks for the great info!

  6. Caitlin Says:

    You are very welcome Ayako!~ Caitlin

  7. kathy Says:

    I work in the state of Texas in a call center and my supervisor does not allow me to use the restroom when I need to because of high call volume and 2 absentee employees. I feel this is unjust because I am punctual, and also hardly if ever miss any work and I am one of the highest producers in the department. Please let me know how the state of Tx handles OSHA and the private sector employers.

  8. Caitlin Says:

    Hi kathy! Worker Safety in Texas is handled by the federal OSHA at By law, the employer must permit workers to use the bathroom when nature calls. However, the employer can penalize an employee for not producing enough work during a specific period of time. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  9. Bobby Says:

    i work for a company in Texas. Is there a set period of time when you can be at the restoom while working. Say a minmal of 5 to 8 mintues. I see some employees take up to 25 to 40 mintues at a time. is there anything stated how long they can be at the while working.

  10. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Bobby! There is no law or OSHA regulation that limits the amount of time an employee can take to use the toilet. Employees do not have to be allowed to make phone calls, smoke, etc in the bathroom. Different people require different amounts of time to have a bowel movement, and 20 minutes is not unreasonable. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  11. antonio ferrer Says:

    its legal close the only bathroom when they are cleaning,and you need to use it(emergency) and you cant hold anymore,even asking for permission to use it and expleining what is the situation?

  12. Caitlin Says:

    Hi antonio! It is legal to close the only bathroom for cleaning. Ideally, employees should not have to wait more than 5 minutes or so to use the toilet. If the wait is longer than that, and it is an emergency, you should just go ahead and use the toilet anyway, not asking for permission. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  13. Jusa72 Says:

    What about threatening employees with termination because they use the “wrong” restroom? I feel that I have to go next door to relieve myself now, and I feel that this is illegal. This makes me feel like I am in a third world country.

  14. Caitlin Says:

    HI Jusa72! Sorry, but we would need to know more about the situation. In the workplace, how you feel is less relevant than the facts. An employer can legitimately restrict certain bathrooms to customers or management, as long as there are staff restrooms available.

    The employee restrooms need to be kept in a clean and sanitary condition, and there need to be a sufficient number of them under OSHA regulations. Why do you not want to use the designated employee bathrooms? HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  15. Scott Says:

    Hi – First, thank you for continuing to respond to the comments! My question is, is requiring an employee to ask a manager to use the restroom reasonable or unreasonable, according to OSHA Fed? I think it would make an employee afraid to use the restroom if they had to ask their boss each time. Thank you!

  16. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Scott! OSHA has ruled that an employee can be required to ask their boss before using the restroom, especially if there is a valid business reason for it. However, the supervisor cannot deny permission to use the toilet. Under OSHA worker safety regulations, employees have the right to use the toilet when the urge strikes. (Our usual disclaimer: This includes using the toilet, not smoking, making cell phone calls, etc, even if those activities are conducted in the bathroom.)

    An employee can be required to wait until someone relieves them, but only a brief time. Making the employee wait more than 5 minutes or so would be a violation of OSHA standards. For example, an employee working on a factory production line might have to wait until a supervisor takes their place, to make sure that production continues.

    It is reasonable for a supervisor to want to know where employees are at all times. It is not reasonable to deny employees the right to use the toilet. No employee should feel too intimidated to use the restroom. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  17. Susan Says:

    I work from home for a call center. I go to the bathroom ranging from 2-4 times a day during my full 8 hour shift. (normally ranging from 5-8 min each time) My employer is asking me if I have a problem since I am going to the bathroom so much. Can they restrict my bathroom usage even though I work from home?

  18. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Susan! This is an ongoing issue with call centers, and we expect that at some point the issue will be addressed in court. Under OSHA worker safety regulations, an employer must permit workers to use the toilet “when nature calls.” They cannot limit bathroom usage to meal breaks or rest breaks. This is true whether you work on their premises or at home. (Assuming that you are an employee and not an independent contractor.)

    However, call centers frame this as a performance issue. Most of them would claim that they are concerned about your productivity. If you take four 8-minute bathroom breaks, from their perspective, that is 32 minutes of work time lost per day. This lost work time makes you less productive than other employees, and at this point they can let you go for poor productivity. There is no law that employees who work from home are permitted to have reduced productivity or a more flexible schedule than other employees.

    If you have a medical condition like IBS, they are legally required to accommodate this under ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is why they are asking. If you can document your medical condition, a usual accommodation is to grant unpaid time off for more frequent (and longer) restroom breaks.

    If you do not have a disability, there may be a happy medium here. Realistically, 5 to 8 minutes is a long bathroom break. Taking 2 or 3 minutes is more common. If you drink less during the day, you may find that you need to use the restroom less frequently, without any harmful effects on your health. Otherwise, yes, at this point they can get away with this. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  19. Paula Says:

    I had gastric bypass surgery back in 2002, and since than I cannot control going to the bathroom. I have had several tests and was not diagnosed with anything other than having weak intestines from the surgery which makes it hard for me to control going.

    I have gotten a few emails from my bosses regarding my bathroom usage, even being told that I am not a team player because I go to the bathroom with calls in queue.

    I am tired of getting nasty emails from my bosses regarding my bathroom issues

    I do not have problems everyday, nor do I go more than once or twice a day, once in a while I am in there longer than 10 minutes which again I have no control over.

    I have taken Imodium on certain days, but cannot take that every day.

    Honestly I am adult and do not feel as if I should have to ask permission to go to the bathroom.

    what are my rights regarding this


  20. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Paula!

    We have good news for you. There are really two separate issues here, OSHA regulations and the ADA.

    Under OSHA worker safety regulations, an employer must permit workers to use the bathroom “when nature calls.” This applies to virtually every worker in the US. No one has to ask permission to use the toilet, nor can they be limited to using the toilet only on their breaks. (Our usual disclaimer: this applies only to using the toilet, not to smoking, making cell phone calls or other activities that can be conducted in the bathroom.)

    An employee can be asked to delay using the toilet due to business necessity, but only for a few minutes — say, up to 5 minutes. The regulations above apply to every employee.

    From your mention of a call queue, we suspect that you work in a call center. They are notorious for trying to deprive workers of bathroom rights. (See the post above.) However, OSHA regulations still apply to them. You can complain to OSHA at

    Second, because you have a permanent condition, you probably have a disability under ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers with a disability. Employees with IBS or similar conditions are often granted the accommodation of more frequent, longer restroom breaks — sometimes totaling several hours per day. However, these breaks are usually unpaid.

    Under ADA, you must request the accommodation you need — the employer is not required to offer it. You should send a letter to your HR department that specifically says, “I am requesting an accommodation under ADA for my permanent disability…” Our suggestion is that you request the accommodation of using the toilet when you feel the urge, up to twice per day, and taking a few minutes longer than other employees do, without being harassed about these breaks.

    The employer (not your supervisor) will most likely call you into a meeting to discuss your accommodation. Be aware that any medical information you disclose during this interview must be kept private, and cannot be shared even with your supervisor. Nor can it be considered in future employment decisions.

    One option the employer may suggest is having you clock out for your bathroom breaks. This would actually benefit you, since it would mean that time cannot be counted against you as unproductive.

    ADA accommodations can be complex, so feel free to post more comments if necessary. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  21. Anita Says:

    I work in the emergency room department at a hospital in Nebraska as registration staff non medical. I am asked to call for desk coverage when I need to use the rest room. My options are to call a tech who works in the patient care area and is often busy with just that, or to call the security staff, who often tell me it will be a while as they are on the other side of the property doing rounds. My supervisors tell me to feel free to call anytime I need to use the restroom, however the actuallity of getting coverage can be a struggle and at times they are not happy to be pulled away from their own job making it a bit of a hostile work environment. Becuase of this I have decided to limit my fluid consumption for my 12 hour shift to less than 12 ounces of fluid so that I have less of a need to use the restroom. I understand that this is not good for my health but it seems to be the only helpful solution I can manage. I am told that if I have asked for desk coverage and no one comes I will be fired for leaving my desk for the 2 minutes it would take me to use the restroom, because it could mean that a patient with a medical emergency came into the ER and died becasue I was not manning my desk. I see the point, however it is important to note that there are cameras veiwable to medical staff in the patient care area that have a better view of the public area then I do at my desk. I would think a call to the tech who can view those cameras to inform them I will be away from my desk for 2 minutes would also work. This is not acceptable to my employer. Given all this do you believe there are any OSHA regulations violated in my circumstance. Thank you in advance for any input. Anita

  22. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Anita! First, to address a few other issues in your post. Simply receiving a negative or resentful reaction from coworkers does not constitute a hostile work environment in the legal sense. You may want to search our archives for hostile work environment to understand this concept better.
    Despite the current fad for drinking gallons of water every day, there is no evidence that limiting consumption of liquids to 12 ounces on an 8-hour shift will harm you, if you drink plenty of liquids before and after work. If you were truly dehydrated, you would have no urge to urinate. This is the bodys way of conserving fluids when water is scarse.
    Many employees limit their water consumption at work. For example, city bus drivers cannot simply stop whenever they would like to use the toilet, so many of them go all day without drinking any liquids.
    The employer is right to require that someone be at the desk in the ER at all times. This is a liability issue for the employer. If the desk is unoccupied, and a patient dies, the hospital will be liable. Even if the death was unavoidable, the hospital will still be found negligent by not having someone at the desk.
    If having the techs monitor the ER by camera would work, the employer could just eliminate your position and lay you off. Fortunately for you, it does not work — so you have a job.
    Having said all that, yes, the employer may be in violation of OSHA standards that require employers to allow workers to use the toilet when nature calls. An employee can be required to wait until a coworker relieves her, to use the toilet. However, usually that wait cannot be longer than 5 minutes or so. If you are being required to wait significantly longer than that, you should discuss this with HR. There may be a solution, such as security relieving you regularly when they are in your part of the building on their regular rounds. If HR does not solve the problem, you can certainly file a complaint with OSHA at HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  23. kori M Says:

    My boyfriend has a very busy schedule away from home. Due to this he finds himself having to go number 2 during work-study. He also takes awhile to finish his business — 30 minutes at most. His employer has said that he needs to clock out to use the bathroom if he does that. Is this right? can they make you clock out because nature calls and you take awhile?

  24. Caitlin Says:

    Hi kori! Yes, the employer can require an employee who takes 30 minutes to use the toilet to clock out. Under the federal FLSA, breaks that are shorter than 20 minutes must be paid. However, an employee who takes a bathroom break that is this lengthy can be required to clock out.
    It is very, very unusual for an employee who does not have a disability or a serious health condition to require 30 minutes to use the toilet. A normal bathroom break would be 10 minutes or less. It would be wise for your boyfriend to get a physical checkup, just to make sure that he does not have a serious health condition that is causing this problem. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  25. ryan mercer Says:

    In the past year we have had a male individual or individuals in the office urinating on the floor, urinating on the wall, putting paper towels down the urinal, smearing feces on the wall with their finger, smearing feces on the wall with their entire hand, and yesterday defecating on the floor and tracking it all throughout the office with their shoes. Management is looking at requiring sign in/out sheets, locks on the the restroom, etc. What legally can they do to restrict restroom usage in Indiana?

  26. Caitlin Says:

    Hi ryan! This is a serious problem and you have our sympathy. OSHA standards require that employees be permitted to use the toilet “when nature calls.” Employees cannot be required to wait more than a few minutes — 5 minutes at most — to use the toilet. Unfortunately, this standard applies even in trying situations such as yours.
    You can lock the restrooms. To avoid the appearance of illegal discrimination based on sex, you should lock both the mens and womens restrooms. You can require that employees request a key, and sign the key out — but this process cannot create a delay of more than about 5 minutes, in employee access to the toilet.
    This action will probably prevent future incidents, but it will not help you catch the culprit.

    Besides being unpleasant, this type of behavior is either a sign of mental illness or of an employee who is extremely angry with the employer. Either creates a volatile situation. For that reason, we are going to suggest that you try to catch the culprit and terminate him.

    To do this, you could leave the restrooms unlocked for now and post a camera OUTSIDE the restroom (never inside) with a view of the door so entry to the bathroom and the time are recorded digitally. If a manager checks the restroom every time it is used, you will have digital evidence of the person who is committing these disgusting acts. You can then fire the employee, which will make the workplace safer for everyone. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  27. Vulgaris Says:

    Good Day! My name is Ghea. I just want to thank you for this post. My pal saw this site and she encourages me to view this page. Well, i do not regret going here to think that your works are quite interesting and informative. Thanks for nice blog! Keep safe.

  28. Caitlin Says:

    You are very welcome, Vulgaris!~ Caitlin

  29. Ryan Says:

    I work at a papermill in Wisconsin. My shift is 6am- 2 pm, with a 5 minute break at 8, 10, and a 20 minute lunch break at 12. (All paid) My employer is saying that we should only use the restroom, on our scheduled breaks. In fact, a friend of mine was actually sent home because she used the bathroom after eating lunch, and it fell outside that 20 minutes. Legal?

  30. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Ryan! No, OSHA worker safety standards require that employees be allowed to use the toilet “when nature calls.” OSHA has repeatedly ruled that bathroom breaks cannot be limited to rest breaks. An employer can impose reasonable restrictions, like having the employee wait 5 minutes for a supervisor to assume their job duties. However, being required to wait until the next rest break is not a reasonable restriction. It may be helpful for your co-worker to show the info at the first link below to management. If not, she should contact the nearest OSHA office, listed at the second link below, and file a complaint. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

    Read more about this at:

    File a complaint at:

  31. Ryan Says:

    Thank you so much. That helps a lot, and I will follow up.

  32. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Ryan! You are very welcome!~ Caitlin

  33. Mstar Says:

    I work as a receptionist and I am pregnant. Do I have rights to use the restroom when needed. I am only in the restroom for a short period, less than 3mins. I have been told that I need to control them and they are not even out of hand. I make sure someone is up front to cover the phones while I am gone. I was also told that if I could not control it then they would find another job for me. I feel that I am being judged because I am pregnant. What are the laws for women being pregnant and needing to use the restroom?

  34. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Mstar! Yes, you have the right to use the restroom as often as you feel the need, whether you are pregnant or not. OSHA worker safety regulations require that employees be permitted to use the toilet “when nature calls.” That also means as often as nature calls. (If you were taking more than 20 minutes for each restroom break, that time could be unpaid, but that is not the case here.)
    There are no special privileges for pregnant women in the workplace (except in California.) You are expected to do your job the same as before. However, the employer also cannot discriminate against you because you are pregnant. Some employers would prefer not to have a visibly pregnant receptionist at the front desk. This policy is not only shortsighted, it is also illegal. And again, every employee has to be permitted to use the toilet as often as necessary.
    Our recommendation: Have a tactful discussion with HR or management. Let them know that OSHA worker safety regulations permit any employee to use the toilet as often as she likes. Also let them know that you see their threats to assign you to another position based on your pregnancy as illegal discrimination based on sex and pregnancy. If you continue to have problems, contact OSHA at and the EEOC at HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  35. Twagner Says:

    I also have a similar question to the previous… I am pregnant and work at a call center in New Mexico. My manager has told me that my restroom usage is excessive and if it continues that I will need to bring in proof of pregnancy from a doctor. My restroom breaks while semi- frequent (usually every hour to hour and a half) are only around two min. Can they require documentation for me to use the restroom as frequently as I need to?

  36. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Twanger! The issue of restroom usage for call center employees is a conundrum. OSHA worker safety standards require that employees be allowed to use the toilet “when nature calls”, meaning every time nature calls.
    The problem is that most call centers approach this as a productivity problem. That is, for every 2 minutes you are in the restroom, that is 2 minutes you are not on the phone. Over the course of an 8 hour shift, this may result in you not meeting company standards for productivity. So while the employer cannot technically discipline you for using the toilet, they can discipline or even terminate you for not meeting their performance standards.
    There is no law in New Mexico or most other states that the employer has to tolerate less productivity from a pregnant employee, than from other employees with the same job. So theoretically, the employer could fire you for being unproductive too frequently — even due to pregnancy and restroom usage.
    If your employer is willing to make accommodations as long as you supply a doctors note, they are being more than fair. We have difficulty understanding why you would not want to provide them with this documentation. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~ Caitlin

  37. Dee Herr Says:

    How long of a wait to be relieved is considered a breech of the standard? I work in Florida and they say we have to go to the bathroom before we go to our station at 9:30 and then we are not relieved again until around 2 or 2:30 for lunch. By tht time, I am in pain from holding it. I have had numerous UTI infections working for this job. Amusement Park. Just wondering how long a reasonable time is? This is 4 1/2 hours to 5 hours. I also have ended up with gall bladder probems because of this. Is this an offense? I was sent to the hospital once from work because I fell over in so much pain because they did not show up to relieve me for the bathroom. This is when they found out I had a UTI and gall stones. Please let me know my options. ANother person quit this job for having a UTI and the same thing kept happening to her.

  38. hrlady Says:

    Hi Dee,

    Even though the government does not require employers to give employees breaks and lunch periods, OSHA does state that employers cannot “unreasonably restrict” an employee from using the rest room. OSHA does not specify how long, or how often, restroom breaks need to be given.

    If you do not feel the restroom breaks provided to you at 9:30 and 2:00 are sufficient, then you should speak to your employer regarding your need for additional restroom periods. This does not mean your employer will change your break period, but they will be aware of your situation.

    Thank You for reading the

  39. Susan Says:

    Hi! I have a question about bathroom breaks as well.
    We are in Washington state. I know that our state requires us to give our employees 2- 10 minute breaks and an hour long lunch with a normal 8 hour day. We have a certain individual who is coming in late, making his breakfast when he arrives (when he is already late), and shortly after his breakfast he will spend 45+ minutes in the bathroom. Lunch rolls around and same thing happens, he is in the restroom for 45+ minutes. Do we as employers have to pay for this time? If this is in addition to their 10 minute breaks, are we required to pay for that? Or is their 10 minute break supposed to be their bathroom break?

  40. hrlady Says:

    Hi Susan,

    Washington State does not publish any rules on what an employer can or cannot do for unauthorized extensions of breaks or lunches. You are right that an employee must receive a 10 minute break for each 4 hours of work, and an employee must receive a lunch break after 5 hours of work. Probably a discussion of start times, breaks and lunch periods needs to happen with this employee.
    The U.S. Department of Labor states “the unauthorized extensions of authorized work breaks need not be counted as hours worked when the employer has expressly and unambiguously communicated to the employee that the authorized break may only last for a specific length of time, that any extension of the break is contrary to the employer’s rules, and any extension of the break will be punished”.
    The conversation with the employee should specifically address start times, breaks and lunch periods. Let the employee know that disciplinary action will follow if the continued behavior continues, have a plan and be consistent. Please be sure to address all situations that are occurring, if any other employee is also starting late, or taking longer breaks and lunches.
    Thank you for reading the

  41. Mark Says:

    I am an employer in the state of Texas. i currently have 2 employees that are consitantly using the restroom for more than 20 minutes at a time, atleast 3 to 5 times a day. They have a 2 – 15 minute break time and 30 minute lunch time. They never use the restroom during break time and never during lunch time. Is it legal to have them clock out while using the restroom? By clocking out, it will deduct from the hours worked. Is that legal to do?

  42. Mark Says:

    I am an employer in the state of Texas. i currently have 2 employees that are consitantly using the restroom for more than 20 minutes at a time, atleast 3 to 5 times a day. They have a 2 – 15 minute break time and 30 minute lunch time. They never use the restroom during break time and never during lunch time. Is it legal to have them clock out while using the restroom? By clocking out, it will deduct from the hours worked. Is that legal to do?

  43. Rosie Wilson Says:

    i work in addison texas, a male manager is always using the womans bathroom when i complain he yells and gets upset. i am the only female in the office what can i do?

  44. hrlady Says:

    Hi Rosie,

    You should speak to your manager or HR department about your concerns. In some establishments only one restroom is required by law if the employee count is under a certain number.

    Thank you for reading the

  45. patrick Says:

    I work as a systems coordinator at a textile manufacturing plant in California. We have approximately 200 employees and 150 operators. There are two shifts, one from 6:00 AM-2:30 PM and 3:00 pm-11:30 PM. During the daytime shift, the bathrooms are frequently abused. On a given day 20-30 people spend upwards of 2 hours in the bathroom due to a lack of regulation by the company. We are currently looking for solutions to this problem. Any suggestions would be awesome.

  46. hrlady Says:

    Hi Patrick,
    It’s in the employer’s best interest to allow employees to use the restroom when they need to. However, there is no federal regulation that prohibits an employer from restricting the amount of times employees can use the facilities within reason. Limiting the number of times employees can use the restroom may upset and offend many employees. So, instead of making this an issue about abusing bathroom breaks, make it a performance issue. There is no reason for an employee to be away from work in order to use the restroom for two hours. Directors/Supervisors must be made aware of the extended absences of employees and address the issue with each of them directly. If an employee states he requires an extended bathroom break then a medical note stating so should be requested.

  47. Shelley Says:

    Hi, Im a manager in a small retail store in Wisconsin. We have a total of 5 employees. We work 10 hr shifts. Half hr lunch. An employee says that he has IBS and need to use the bathroom more often. He uses it about 3 times in 10 hrs and at least 20 min per use. In the mean time, the phone is ringing off the hook, and customers line up. Am I at least able to have him punch out when he goes? He never goes on his lunch, but 1/2 hr later he’s gone. Thanks for your time

  48. hrlady Says:

    Hi Shelley, The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration encourages employers to allow employees to use the restroom as necessary since the need to use the restroom varies from person to person with also consideration for medical conditions that may cause an individual to use the restroom more frequently. However, this doesn’t mean that an employer is prohibited from imposing reasonable restrictions on bathroom use. So, it’s advisable to inform the employee that he’s permitted to use the restroom as needed due to his medical condition; however, it’s expected that he will consider his work responsibilities in doing so. It’s worth mentioning that using the restroom 3 times in 10 hours is fairly normal. Also, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), short breaks must be paid.

  49. Sam Says:

    We r a small dental office… We have two bathrooms … One for patients and staff and other for the dentist (me)right next to my private office…. Just one the employees (others never use it)uses my bathroom… Is it very bothersome especially when the common bathroom is vacant… Can I tell the employee not to use my bathroom… Are there any legalities?thank you for your time…

  50. hrlady Says:

    Hi Sam, We’re sorry for the delayed response. OSHA requires that bathrooms be readily accessible and available for employees. So, as long as the employee doesn’t have to walk 10 minutes to get to the common bathroom, it’s acceptable to prohibit access to the restroom directly outside your office. Make it clear to all employees that you’re now designating this particular restroom as your private restroom and all employees are required to use the common restroom.

  51. M Says:

    As a manager of a call center with a high volume of incoming calls, can I require, ask, or suggest that employees use their breaks for bowel movements? I have a couple employees who seem to take their restroom breaks every day around the same time (at least 10-15 minutes, maybe longer) and then take separate 10 minute work breaks maybe an hour later. It’s every day.

  52. hrlady Says:

    Hi M, Employers are permitted to impose reasonable restrictions on restroom usage. You may require or suggest employees use the restroom only during their breaks. It’s actually fairly common for call centers to prohibit employees from leaving their work space outside of regularly scheduled breaks. Before implementing such a policy, consider simply reminding employees that one of the reasons for scheduled breaks is to use the restroom. Just remember, it’s possible for an employee to have a medical condition that requires him/her to use the restroom more frequently or for longer than average duration. In this case, you must allow the employee access to the restroom as needed as an accommodation under the ADA, if applicable.

  53. m Says:

    thank you hr lady, but my issue is I will be working from home. Their policy is to notify the supervisor and by the time she gets back to me it might be too late. Can they not let me go except on breaks when I work at home?

  54. hrlady Says:

    Hi M. For future reference, this site is reserved for HR/Supervisors. But since we mistakenly answered your previous question, we’ll answer this one too. Yes, an employer can restrict bathroom usage even for employees working from home. However, assuming you’re an employee and not a contractor, you’re covered under the federal OSHA which requires employers to allow employees to use the restroom when they need to do so or at least within a reasonable time frame. Unfortunately, “reasonable time frame” is not defined under OSHA. Generally, if your supervisor usually takes a few minutes to get back to you than they’re requirement is acceptable. However, if your supervisor tends to take 15 minutes to get back to you then that is an unreasonable amount of time to expect you to wait. Further, if you have a medical condition that forces you to need to use the restroom quickly or more often than you may also be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and entitled to accommodations meaning your employers need to allow you to use the restroom when you need to use it. HTH!

  55. M Says:

    Thank you for responding. Although my question was asked as an employee, I also manage for my husband’s business and I wanted to make sure I understood under both circumstances. Thank you.
    Does the employee need to show a doctor’s note? Can we request that?
    Thanks again

  56. hrlady Says:

    Hi again M!
    Employers are permitted to request a doctor’s note. The doctor’s note should only include that the employee may need frequent restroom breaks on an as-needed basis due to a medical condition. HTH

  57. JMH Says:

    Hi There. I know this thread is old, but I wanted to see if anyone would by chance answer my question. I’m a supervisor for a group that works from home. They are employees, not contractors. We allow a 15 minute break in the morning, a 1/2 hour lunch, and another 15 in the afternoon. Some employees need to use the restroom outside of the break times, so I have told them that from now on, they need to deduct the time spent in the restroom during unscheduled breaks from their scheduled breaks. (Both 15 minute breaks are paid) Can I do this, even if the restroom breaks are only 1-2 minutes each? Thank you.

  58. hrlady Says:

    Hi JMH,
    Not compensating non-exempt employees for short breaks, especially 1-2 minute bathroom breaks, violates the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Under the FLSA, short breaks lasting less than twenty minutes in duration must be compensated. Meal periods typically lasting thirty minutes or more are not time required to be compensated.
    If an employee’s productivity is being affected by the additional bathroom breaks then the matter should be addressed as a performance issue. But, if the additional breaks are a small annoyance then let it be. Also, keep in mind that some individuals may need additional bathroom breaks due to medical conditions.

  59. Dan Says:

    Just a comment: Great input that I can use to produce and address a restroom break policy/guide using OSHA and ADA compliance measures. I now have a much better grasp on counseling my senior management team running the call center I work with. Thank you.

  60. hrlady Says:

    Hi Dan,
    We’re glad you found our site useful!

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