Purloined Potty Privacy

bathroomThis falls under the heading of “be glad you don’t work here”:  In Chicago, Illinois, a company has started monitoring the time employees spend in the bathroom and disciplining employees it thinks use the restroom too much.

The company requires employees to swipe a card on a card reader when they enter and exit the bathroom, and keeps track of how much time each employee spends in the toilet.  If an employee spends more than 60 minutes in the bathroom in ten working days – or about 6 minutes per day – the employee can be given a disciplinary warning for “excessive use of the bathroom.”  On the other hand, an employee who does not use the restroom at all during a workday can earn a dollar on a gift card, for up to $20 per month.

In California, there would be several problems with a potty policy like this.  California goes a lot further than many states to protect employee privacy.  Keeping a list monitoring all line employees’ bathroom time seems to be a fairly major invasion of the employees’ privacy, and while there are no laws directly addressing this situation, there is a good chance the courts would agree the employer’s policy goes much too far.

Even worse, the potty policy could require employees to give their employers private, medical information.  There are numerous medical and disability-related reasons an employee might not be able to comply with the 6-minute limit or might need more than one or two bathroom breaks in a day, from Crohn’s Disease to medication-related incontinence issues, to nausea from pregnancy or even cancer-related chemotherapy.  Not only would the potty policy discriminate against these people, which would be unlawful, but it also might require them to explain their medical conditions simply to keep their jobs.  Normally, employers are very limited in what kinds of medical information they can ask, but a policy like the one the Chicago company has would basically require employees to volunteer the information.  A California company almost certainly would not be able to get away with such taboo toilet tracking.