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Company limits bathroom breaks to 6 minutes a day

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NEW YORK — Spend more than 6 minutes a day in the bathroom at Chicago’s WaterSaver Faucet company and you’ll face disciplinary measures.

That’s what a union contends the manufacturer is pulling — timing bathroom breaks and warning employees when they can’t beat the clock.

The union, Teamsters local 743, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming WaterSaver unfairly disciplined 19 workers in June for “excessive use” of washrooms.

The company’s human resources department described “excessive use of the bathroom as 60 minutes or more over the last 10 working days,” according to the affidavit. Do the math and it works out to 6 minutes a day.

The controversy goes back to last winter when WaterSaver installed swipe card systems on bathrooms located off the factory floor.

The company said it had little choice because some employees were spending way too much time in there, and not enough time on the manufacturing line.

WaterSaver’s CEO, Steve Kersten, said 120 hours of production were lost in May because of bathroom visits outside of allotted break times.

To recoup lost hours, WaterSaver has adopted a rewards system where workers can earn a gift card of up to $20 each month ($1 a day) if they don’t use the bathroom at all during work time. CEO Kersten said a few workers have already earned them.

He said that so far no one has been suspended or terminated, although warnings were issued. The company has a three step disciplinary process that starts with a verbal or written warning, which can then lead to a suspension, and finally a termination.

The union said monitoring bathroom time is an invasion of privacy.

“The company has spreadsheets on every union employee on how long they were in the bathroom,” said Nick Kreitman, the union representative at WaterSavers. “There have been meetings with workers and human resources where the workers had to explain what they were doing in the bathroom,” he said.

It’s unreasonable given that the human body can’t always perform on cue, Kreitman said. Besides, he pointed out that the company’s 140 workers don’t have paid sick days. Workers who can’t afford to lose a day’s pay come into work sick, and may end up using bathrooms more, he said.

Kersten said workers should be able to take care of most personal needs during the breaks the company gives them each day that total one hour. That’s when workers have unlimited access to bathrooms without the electronic systems.

He said he understands people may have to use the bathroom outside of those breaks.

“No one is stopped from going to the bathroom,” he said. But he believes workers might be spending time on their phones in the bathrooms.

“Our supposition is that some of the behavior is related to cell phones and texting, although I have no hard evidence,” he said, pointing out that cell phones are banned on the factory floor.

Both sides gather around the bargaining table Thursday to discuss pay and paid sick days, among other things. Bathroom time will likely come up as a discussion topic.

Asked if he had to swipe into his bathroom at work, Kersten hesitated for a second and said “No.”


  • Marti

    i agree with the problem of cell phone use in the bathroom..happens all the time where I work, but there has to be a better way not to punish everyone for what a few do !!

  • PottyMouth

    As a toddler you get rewarded for going potty and now as an adult you get rewarded for not going potty…hmmmmmm

  • laffin'atcha

    We used to have a co-worker who would take the Wall Street Journal to the bathroom EVERY day.He would read the entire pape in there…

  • victoo

    This is not healthy as it can lead to urinary infections of the bladder or worse the kidneys. So hold them accountable for your illnesses if u are held accountable for use of the toilet for a normal body function!

  • sinner 3

    Sounds like they should start wearing diapers until the production numbers are where they should be!! Lazy Union workers everywhere all ways looking for a way to waste time and avoid work !!

  • karen wiles

    The company should consider having a cell phone policy that prohibits cell phones being brought into the facility. Phones must be left in the car. The staff should be provided with an emergency contact number that can be shared with families in case of an emergency. (Like the old days) Hopefully, this company has meal/breaks policies in which they can address employees who are seen leaving the facility outside the meal/break times or for long periods of time.

  • Nicholas Byrd

    I understand the cell phone issue, and I would say that it would be better to require employees to log in their cells when clocking in and getting them back for breaks than it is to put timers on the bathroom. Maybe these people have that level of control, but I can’t guarantee that I will be able to make it out of one visit in six minutes, much less six minutes per day, and my body, and I am sure the bodies of tens of millions, cannot be forced onto a regular time table. Some people are highly regular, and good for those people, but for everyone else, when you have to go, you have to go.

  • m.f.

    That is unfair to employees who may have a medical condition such as IBS or interstitial cystitis or any of the other conditions or even pregnancy I understand that some may abuse that but you have to think about those who can’t help it

    • sinner 3

      Well they should be able to produce documentation if a real medical condition exists !! BUT you can not let everyone misuse the system in favor of one or two !!

      • its my business

        Yes, an FMLA form should be presented and accepted. Then this notorious clock watching could help 50% of those that these rediculous rules can be reasonable issues. It’s a shame it may have to get into that. This comappny has such a bad rap now, who would EVER want to work for work for them. Hold on, brb, I have to pee.

      • volcomgrl1223

        Many people go undiagnosed for IBS or IBD, sometimes it takes a serious flare of intestinal bleeding before finding out and even then doctors don’t always get it right on the first diagnosis.

  • Diane Purcell

    It’s usually pretty clear which employees are hiding out in the bathroom to avoid work or use their phones. I’d say a better idea would to be to have a supervisor discuss it privately with the employee, to make sure there isn’t a problem, and if it continues and the employee is lazy ON the job as well as doing this, fire them. If the employee is a good worker and clearly has an issue, then deal with it appropriately to their own situation.

  • anon

    Wonder what they’d do if employees just started crapping their pants instead of using the restroom…

  • Jorge Molina Jr

    When a company and or corporation starts making rules like a 6 minute bathroom break , that is truly oppressive , I mean ” Potty time is the last bastion of American freedom” – Eric Cartmen

  • Morgan

    The policy does not apply to the CEO. Sounds fair:( another example of how the executives are making policies for the worker bees.

  • rachel

    This is really sad for the employees that work here. Employee misuse of time is something all companies deal with in one way or another, however I don’t think this is the answer. There are some people who have problems using the bathroom in one form or another and to just say that they only get 6 minutes a day is insane. A better solution would be to have all of the employees leave cell phones in the cars, or purses etc. this ensures those who do misuse time in the bathroom aren’t able to do so without really being sly, and it allows those who really need the facilities the option to use them without being reprimanded for taking to long.. I wouldn’t be able to work for a company that treats employees this way, why should you have to explain to someone when you have cramps or diarrhea or are constipated and need longer in the bathroom.. it’s dehumanizing.

  • kadja1

    I’d never work for a company like that. If they are that worried about cell phone usage, they should ban those from the facility.

    • its my business

      I can not be without a cell phone as I have members of my family that require my assistance. So that would fall under “special circimstances” I guess. I have IBS and wouldn’t/couldn’t work for someone that. jeez!!!

      • kadja1

        In companies with that policy it would fall under special circumstances and you would be allowed to use it as necessary. That’s the rule for my company although they can ban them from the facility if employees keep milking the clock.

  • its my business

    I guess they spend more $$$ in HR watching and monitoring Bathroon use than what they should be monitoring. I wonder if the bathroomo monitor has her business card titled the same. ???? Crazy.

  • aldo watts

    they seem most concerned about wireless device usage in the bathroom. they should just wallpaper the bathroom with a signal blocking product designed for that purpose, but you have to be smarter than a toilet seat to come up with a working solution to target the real problem/

  • its my business

    Text people, text and don’t work for a company that you have to have a card to swipe to go the loo. That’s absurd!The CEO even stated he doesn’t have to do that. I bet he’s got a nice shower and a daily cleaner for his “in office” bathroom fcailities.

  • NS

    The easy solution is to simply wedge the door open after the first person is done. Then everyone uses at as necessary.
    Also the issue really being addressed is not using your break time to go. I know where I work there is never anyone in the bathrooms during break. But 5, 10 minutes before or after the stalls are always full. People are playing the system that way. If they’d quit and just do their job maybe this wouldn’t be an issue.

  • volcomgrl1223

    This seems like a lawsuit in the making if any of those employees suffer from IBS or Chron’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis. Those diseases cause the constant urge to use the toilet and sometimes you can sit there feeling a need to go with nothing happening. Three to twenty percent of adults suffer from IBS. make a no cell phone policy, duh. I almost wish I had an employer pull a stunt like this. I would capitalize on my colitis so fast they wouldn’t know what hit them.

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