Question: We rescheduled one of our long-term employees so that now she must arrive to work at 9 a.m. rather than 10 a.m. She has been consistently late for the new start time, and has told us that the earlier time interferes with her using the bathroom at home. She has not asked for an accommodation of any medical issue; do we have to excuse or tolerate her tardiness?
Answer: Without knowing the reasons she feels she must use only her home bathroom in the morning (for instance, she has a medically-based reason but she is embarrassed to disclose this information; she is transgendered and uncomfortable using the workplace provided facilities; etc.), her request may be unreasonable.
If your workplace has adequate and appropriate bathroom facilities that are readily available and usable for employees as well as meet health, safety, or state regulations, and employees are given time to use bathrooms when needed, it may be time to open the lines of communication with this employee. If she has a disability and may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), then it is your duty to reasonably accommodate her so long as the accommodation does not create an undue burden on the employer.
For example, a reasonable accommodation could consist of moving her start time back to 10 a.m. or providing a private bathroom for her to use.