Ask the HR Expert: Long Bathroom Breaks - An Employer's Guide

Ask the HR Expert: Long Bathroom Breaks

Ask most business owners and they will say they never dreamed their duties would involve questioning employee bathroom breaks. But as it turns out, frequent and/or long bathroom breaks happen more than one may have thought. In this Ask the HR Expert, Jeanette Coleman, Director of Human Resources at Axcet HR Solutions, provides expert advice on this popular topic.

An Employer Faces Issues with an Employee Taking Long Bathroom Breaks

Question: I have an employee who is taking unusually long bathroom breaks. The frequent restroom use is disrupting work. What should I do to prevent long bathroom breaks?

Answer: If you believe that an employee’s bathroom breaks are longer than average, consider there may be other issues, such as a medical condition, causing the behavior. As a best practice, have a Human Resources representative or a manager talk to the employee privately to determine if there is a reason for the lengthy breaks.

If a health condition exists and reasonable accommodations are necessary, ask the employee to provide medical certification from their healthcare provider and Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) paperwork, if applicable, to ensure the additional time is protected.   

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If it turns out the employee has an issue unrelated to their health, then you should involve Human Resources for a resolution. When moving forward in this direction, it is important to consider how the frequent trips to the bathroom are impacting the employees' ability to complete high-quality work in a timely manner. If the bathroom breaks have negatively impacted their work, address the poor performance, not the number of bathroom breaks. However, if performance has not been affected, you may consider letting the bathroom breaks go for now.    

Tips to Manage Employee Break Periods

Consider these tips to proactively manage break periods:

  • Schedule rest breaks every number of predetermined hours as indicated by your state’s law, if applicable.
  • Make a good faith effort to provide rest periods in the middle of each work period.
  • Draft written rest period policies that comply with federal and state laws.

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