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Bathroom Breaks

We have employees in our office who have been taking advantage of bathroom breaks to the extreme. We’re wondering if there are any laws we need to know about before trying to address the situation?

The federal Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes and enforces standards to ensure safe and healthful working conditions. Just about all private employers are covered under the federal OSHA while many public employees are covered under OSHA approved state programs.

OSHA requires restrooms to be available when employees need to use them. Employers may impose restrictions on employee access to restrooms. However, the restrictions must be reasonable and may not cause extended delays.

When addressing the matter of excessive bathroom breaks, first consider how it’s impacting the workplace or business operations. Usually, productivity is the main concern.

Consider holding a staff meeting to discuss your concerns. Let employees know that restroom usage should be reserved for during breaks unless a legitimate need exists. If productivity or work loads are clearly being affected, then say so. Also, make it clear that bathroom breaks should be used for just that, going to the bathroom. Personal matters including cell phone use should be limited to breaks only, unless an emergency exists.

At times coworkers may have to pick up the slack caused by others taking unnecessary and excessive restroom breaks. Focus on the team aspect and that each employee must be considerate of each other.

Sometimes simply letting employees know that their behavior is hindering their performance or burdening their coworkers is enough to make it stop.

If you notice the same individuals taking excessive restroom breaks then address the matter with each of them directly. In this case, it’s important to be aware if an employee has a legitimate medical reason for needing frequent and longer restroom breaks. These employees must be given access to the restroom as needed and can’t be discriminated against for medical conditions covered under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any aspect of employment. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with covered disabilities unless doing so would cause an undue hardship, meaning a significant difficulty or expense. Usually, allowing an employee to use the bathroom more frequently or for longer durations is a reasonable accommodation.

Another point to consider is that sometimes employees take excessive and frequent bathroom breaks because their prohibited from using their cell phones or addressing personal matters during the workday. Though employers are generally able to be as strict or lenient with such policies as they wish, it’s best to consider the needs of employees. Are employees given other opportunities to check their phones like during breaks/lunches? Are employees’ family members able to contact them in case of an emergency? Think of employees who have kids in school or those who are caring for ill family members. Make sure that there is a real need for these policies and that they can realistically be followed.


This entry was posted on Thursday, December 29th, 2016 at 2:03 pm and is filed under
Workplace Management.
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