Faucet Company Stopwatches Bathroom Breaks

After losing 120 production hours in May because of unscheduled bathroom breaks, WaterSaver Faucet Co. unilaterally implemented a policy prohibiting employees from taking restroom breaks lasting more than 6 minutes. While draconian on its face, employees are able to use the washroom during their 10-minute morning break, 30-minute lunch break, 15-minute afternoon break, and 5-minute clean-up period at the end of their shift. Keycard swipes monitor when employees enter and exit the restroom and workers spending more than 6 minutes inside the facilities receive a verbal or written warning. Nineteen of the 90 production employees have thus far been disciplined for taking excessive bathroom breaks.

The employees’ union has filed an unfair labor practice charge over this rule alleging that the company unilaterally implemented the policy, refused to bargain over the policy, and excessively used discipline for purported noncompliance with the policy, all in violation of Section 8(a)(1) and (5) of the National Labor Relations Act.

This type of a workplace policy is generally a mandatory subject of bargaining and the company may well have violated the Act by unilaterally implementing and disciplining employees for violating it. However, the employer’s Management Rights Clause in the collective bargaining agreement may be broad enough to allow for this type of activity. Without seeing the specific language of that clause, I’ll have to sit and wait for the NLRB’s ruling…I better get some reading material…