Tick tock tinkle: Company times bathroom use, says 6 minutes is plenty

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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.”


  • CJB

    Supposed they have to take water pills, then what? If they dont take their meds, then something will happen to them and the company will be held accountable. IJS

  • JHC

    If cell phones are the problem, then put a cell phone jammer in the bathroom. I am not a fan of unions, but rewards for NOT using the bathroom is just insane.

  • Joe

    Sounds like a sweat shop prison company. What if employees have to drop a douce? I wouldn’t want to have to explain a case of diahrrea to management. I’d just stay late to finish the work.

  • canadianwhiskeygirl

    Boy oh boy….I guess this so called news article filled empty space. If this were going on in Memphis, I might understand a little bit but new York state is the least of my concerns.

  • Evette

    What kind of company would encourage employees to go all day without using the bathroom?
    So in a month, when they all call in with bladder infections, how much money will that save the company?

    • Anne Davis

      The bathroom break they are talking about is in addition to their regular breaks (morning, lunch, afternoon). I think the idea is to avoid abuse of time, not preventing people from going potty.

  • Don

    They better lawyer up! Crohn’s disease, IBS, diuretics, bladder problems, you had bad Mexican food the night before but came to work instead of staying at home. Yeah, I want to see THAT stick!

  • Chaz

    Hmmmm. Sounds a lot like working at amazon.com Abuse is one thing but to count minutes etc, seems like someone has a stick up their bum. Its bad enough that companies spend time trying to control instead of making employees want to be at work. A healthy employee is a happy employee and a happy employee is a productive employee. I never minded the work, even if the pay was menial, but belittle and see how far that gets you as an employee. Your company will suffer and your employees will think your a arse. Makes for a great work environment and all employees will look forward to getting up each day to help you earn money. I owned and opperated a small business with up to 15 employees. Sure, I had to let the slackers go, but the ones that did their job stayed on for years. And to tell the truth, I would never treat my employees like I was treated by the last three jobs. I’m retired! Carry on!

  • takenobull

    Obviously the CEO has never been constipated. However somebody has been using the bath room to use their cell phone.

    • OMG

      And this folks is why I’m a hardcore SUPPORTER of unions as everyone (with exception of millionaire CEO’s) should be. This is absurd and without a union voice this is what the American worker is subjected to. If I were a worker I would just urinate and delicate all over myself and then barge up in the bosses office, have a seat on his nice plush 10 thousand dollar couch and explain what happened! Sorry about the soiled couch boss.

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