Let My People Go
Last week, my brother blogger Will Truman wrote of employers prohibiting employees taking their coffee breaks together. Turns out, exercising such an atomic level of micromanagement intended to wrest marginally increased productivity produced predictably perverse result. Morale declined, then productivity suffered, then turnover increased.
But really, not letting people surf the internet or hang out for a few minutes while getting a cup of coffee is only scratching the surface of idiotically oppressive human resources policy. Let’s take it up to the next level:
Step One: install card swipe readers on the employee bathroom doors.
Step Two: impose discipline for people using more than sixty minutes of toilet time over a ten-day period. (That’s six minutes of toilet time a day.)
Step Three: offer gift card incentives to employees who can go all day without “going.”
Step Four: accuse employees who use more than their allotment of “screwing off.”
What do you think will happen? Well, for starters, you’ll draw a complaint before the NRLB, especially if you’re foolish enough to do this during MOU re-negotiations with a union. And the national media will lampoon you, sending your P.R. folks into an amusing tizzy.
But then there’s the issue that some of your employees may need longer in the toilet than others. Who might those be? Well, let’s start with one category of workers who we might imagine might need more time. Let’s call them… “women.”
Turns out, the broad cultural conventions of men’s and women’s clothing make toilet use somewhat more time-consuming for women than men. Who knew? So now, boom, you’ve rendered all of your female employees more vulnerable to workplace discipline than your male employees and you’ve got yourself a nice lawsuit. Got more than 75 female employees? Then let’s go ahead and call that a “class action sex discrimination claim” while we’re at it.
And there’s more. Someone might have some physical challenges others do not because they’re, maybe, using a wheelchair to get around instead of walking. Huh, so that’s what those bars on the inside walls of the stalls are for! Do you think those people can get in, do their business, and get out as fast as you managers can? So let’s start talking to the ADA compliance officer, who I’m gonna bet is not looking forward to explaining this away to the wheelchair-bound employee’s attorney.
But wait! What if you get some employee who timidly and foolishly decides that the way to not run afoul of this policy (and maybe earn a gift card!) is to simply not eat or drink all day, so as to not need to go to the bathroom and eliminate. Which results in dehydration and heat stroke, or even worse, a wee bit of the good ol’ fashioned hypoglycemia (which, at least in San Antonio, Texas, apparently earns you a beating).
Well, that’s why you spent all that money on insurance, right?
Card swipe readers and discipline for “overuse” of the toilet is an end game play of an employer who has already progressed several revolutions into a long, downward spiral of employers and employees exchanging escalating evidence of disrespect for one another. It cannot possibly be reasonably foreseen as a measure calculated to increase productivity since it so predictably will have the opposite effect. Not to mention the legal disputes. It is so easily characterized as a gesture of unmitigated spite that I have difficulty seeing how it could possibly have been done in good faith.
And it’s silly, too, but I guess by now, that’s the least of anyone’s worries.
Postscript: The progress of NRLB complaint can be tracked here, although the contents of the complaint itself are not, as of the date of publication, available for public review from NRLB itself.
Burt Likko is the pseudonym of an attorney in Southern California. His interests include Constitutional law with a special interest in law relating to the concept of separation of church and state, cooking, good wine, and bad science fiction movies. Follow his sporadic Tweets at @burtlikko, and his Flipboard at Burt Likko.