Bathroom breaks have been on people’s minds recently, with certain delivery companies being accused of having such ridiculous quotas that employees are forced to forgo stops to relieve themselves. Trucking companies are notorious for their weird hours and strain on the body, but that doesn’t mean that drivers have to tolerate the humiliation of not reaching bathrooms. Here is what you need to know.
At the level of OSHA and the Department of Labor, the rules leave room for interpretation. An employer can require an employee to wait for a co-worker to relieve them if having someone present is necessary for the work. Breaks between 5 and 20 minutes are considered time worked, according to the DOL, and therefore paid.
However, an employer can’t unreasonably restrict your access to the bathroom. What counts as unreasonable will vary by person, as there are conditions that lead to people needing the bathroom more than usual. They most certainly can’t issue a blanket refusal or create an environment where the only ‘reasonable’ thing is to hold it until you get home.
The state is a bit more finicky on this matter. California requires your boss to give many people working for more than 5 hours a half-hour meal break and a 10-minute rest break if you work more than 3.5 hours.
However, there are people who are exempt from these requirements. Truck drivers are often considered exempt from these rules because of a 2018 ruling by the secretary of transportation that drivers covered by the DOT are already being given enough rest through their hours-of-service regulations and are therefore not covered by the California rules. The DOT rules mandate that a driver can’t drive for more than 8 hours without getting a half hour meal break.
California does have hours-of-service regulations separate from the FMCSA. Your employer is supposed to track your hours and keep a record of the hours for 6 months. The record is supposed to reveal that you work no more than 14 hours cumulatively before getting at least 10 hours off. Exceptions are made for emergency situations, where you might have to drive for an additional 2 hours to get to safety.
Bathroom breaks would be part of the hours-of-service regulations. Again, your boss can’t interfere unnecessarily with your ability to take bathroom breaks. You should be able to stop when you need to without quotas and excessive monitoring making it impossible.
This is particularly the case if you have a condition that makes it important that you have easy access to the bathroom. It goes under the rubric of accommodating your disability, and your employer will be obliged to do so by federal and state rules.
When To Get A Lawyer
Not having bathroom breaks is more than humiliating and demeaning. It is dangerous. Drivers who are distracted by the call of nature don’t pay as much attention to the road as they should, and the strain on your kidneys can do serious damage to your health. Unfortunately, some business owners don’t seem aware that insane quotas and ridiculous hours-of-service mandates in effect violate the rules concerning bathroom breaks. Some bosses are also out of touch with reality and try to prohibit you from doing what is necessary. Whether you have a case will depend on many factors, so you will want to talk to a lawyer about the details.
Aiman-Smith & Marcy understands that these are complicated matters, despite it being about something so basic to our health. Our small-medium law firm specializes in employment law and has plenty of experience in it. If you think your rights are being violated, contact us.