Walmart employee denied break after 15-minute bathroom visit. He highlights concerns over fair treatment and workplace policies.
At workplaces, we have often seen employers following the path of pettiness. From eye-rolls to small-minded squabbles, moments like these can throw a wrench in teamwork and create an unhealthy work environment. When one such example cropped up on social media, the internet rallied around a Walmart employee who shared on Reddit that their supervisor took action against them after they took an extended bathroom break. u/Littlesubkitten_3_ shared a Reddit post where they detailed their work shift from 10 to 7 (without clarifying if it was AM or PM). Around 4, they needed a bathroom break, but it took about 15 minutes due to restroom congestion and lack of toilet paper in the front store bathrooms, likely closer to their work area. The employee said, "So, I not only had to walk back to electronics but also had to go to the bathroom back there and walk back."
They requested a coworker to cover for them during their restroom break, and the colleague agreed. However, upon returning, their team leader confronted them, stating, "Since you took 20 mins in the bathroom, that was your 15." Expressing frustration, the individual added, "I literally don't understand why some team leads are such a*****es." In a follow-up comment, the employee explained that their intention wasn't to take an extended break; rather, they were feeling unwell during that time. Even with this reasoning, their supervisor did not excuse them.
In the post, the individual admitted that their bathroom break was longer than usual. However, they raised a valid concern, questioning whether their team lead had the authority to cancel their scheduled 15-minute break due to an extended restroom break. The post shared on the r/walmart subreddit, has garnered over 330 upvotes and around 133 comments. Other Redditors swiftly rallied in support of the worker, offering guidance on how to navigate the situation going forward. u/Affectionate_Top7015 said, "Policy says bathroom breaks are during work time. We are not to hold it until our 15-minute break. You were denied your 2nd break against policy; file a formal complaint." Another user, u/Loud_Calligrapher579, added, "No, they can not. But break police states that you can get more breaks or take longer breaks if you need it as long you communicate it to your supervisor."
Nonetheless, there exists no federal mandate that enforces lunch or coffee breaks for employees. Rather, these policies differ across employers, with breaks typically ranging from 5 to 20 minutes, contingent on the duration of a person's work shift. According to the sanitation standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employers are required to "permit workers to leave their work area to use the restroom as needed. Provide an acceptable number of restrooms for the current workforce. Avoid putting unreasonable restrictions on bathroom use."
In relation to the latter, OSHA further clarifies that employees should not unduly prolong their bathroom breaks. However, considering the individual variability in bathroom use, no federal benchmark exists for the frequency or duration of these breaks. OSHA notes that certain conditions, such as pregnancy, urinary tract infections, and abdominal pain, may necessitate more frequent restroom access.