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Chicago Company Counts the Minutes Workers Spend on the Toilet

Employees who exceed 6 minutes of potty time each day face discipline. Union and company owner at odds over contract terms.

Workers picket at WaterSaver Co. in Chicago. | Photo Credit: Teamsters Local 743
Workers picket at WaterSaver Co. in Chicago. | Photo Credit: Teamsters Local 743

Does your boss count the minutes you spend on the potty?

The folks who run WaterSaver Faucet Co. in Chicago do, and the five dozen factory workers there are so fed up with crossing their legs on the job that they've filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

The workers, who build faucet stations that go into high schools, university labs and healthcare facilities, say they are allowed only 6 minutes per day for toilet breaks, according to Teamsters Local 743, and anyone who exceeds their allotted toilet time is reprimanded.

The company implemented a toilet-tracking system earlier this year that requires employees to swipe a keycard to use the bathroom, Steven Kersten, owner and president of WaterSaver Faucet Co., told the Chicago Tribune.

The union says 19 employees faced discipline for excessive toilet time within the last two months.

But those who "hold their water" all day and avoid the toilet entirely earn a $1 per day bonus, according to Teamsters Local 743 business agent, Nick Kreitman.

"[The company’s] philosophy is that they feel like people are getting an extra break in the bathroom,” Kreitman said. “It’s a company that doesn’t grant paid sick leave, so it’s more than a coincidence that [the owner] started to discipline workers after we asked for paid sick leave.”

The union believes the bathroom-break policy is the company's response to the union's new contract proposal, according to Progress Illinois, which sought sick leave for workers and an increase in the hourly wage from about $11 an hour to $15 an hour.

Local 743 represents 140 employees of WaterSaver and its sister company, Guardian Equipment. On Wednesday, the union staged a "Stop Bathroom Harassment" picket at the company.

Under the contract, the workday is 7.5 hours with a 10-minute morning break, a 15-minute afternoon break, a 30-minute lunch and a 5-minute end-of-day cleanup period.

The company owner — who noted employees spent 120 unnecessary hours in the bathroom in May — said employees were only reprimanded when supervisors noticed the bathroom breaks were excessive and employees ignored their demands to adhere to scheduled breaks.

Kersten said one employee used the bathroom six times in one shift. 

Mark Golden July 14, 2014 at 05:09 PM
Are management and the owner under the same regulations? From a medical stand point, "holding it in" can cause heath problems. For workers and management. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Would management rather they use the product they are building?
jackie davis July 16, 2014 at 12:40 PM
This is ridiculous, I too am fighting with my company. They require us to ask permission to use the restroom, which I don't have a problem with, except some employees ask and some just go, the problem is that they will sometimes make you wait, even up to 15 minutes!!!!
Linda July 16, 2014 at 12:56 PM
Making a person wait to use a restroom is just cruel -- plain and simple. It's a control tactic and because of the fact that in this economy and the way the employment issues are in so many states, employers know they have the power.
Gordo K July 18, 2014 at 01:54 AM
The FLSA does not require breaks or meal periods be given to workers. Some states may have requirements for breaks or meal periods. If you work in a state which does not require breaks or meal periods, these benefits are a matter of agreement between the employer and the employee (or the employee's representative).
Elizabeth Zane July 18, 2014 at 02:54 AM
I can't believe they are allowed to do this. This could cause serious health issues for the employees. They are not Robots....they are humans. They CAN NOT be"programed" for bodily functions. Maybe they would like to put them in diapers so they don't have to leave their work station at all!! I wonder how long the guy that made up the time takes....And why is the 5 min. clean up time at the end of the day counted as a "break" when they are still working? I wish these people luck in their fight.

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