Court rules company owes workers almost $2 million for unpaid bathroom breaks

This image was removed due to legal reasons.

It's a horrible choice: lose wages on a trip to the bathroom or just hold it until the day is over. Thankfully, some workers in Pennsylvania aren't holding it anymore.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports a Pennsylvania company has been ordered to pay its employees $1.75 million to its employees for forcing them to clock out for short breaks, including going to the bathroom.

American Future Systems, a company that publishes business newsletters, was sued by the federal Department of Labor in 2012 under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The department argued that, by making more than 6,000 workers clock out on all breaks, including those less than 20 minutes, the company was preventing them from earning the federal minimum wage.


"No worker should have to face the choice: Do I take a bathroom break, or do I get paid?" said Adam Welsh, a lawyer with the at the Department of Labor told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

According to court documents, the company argued it was exempt from the regulation because it allows employees to take as many breaks as they want for as long as they want, and were free to do whatever they wanted during that time, so long as they don't mind not being paid.

U.S. District Judge L. Felipe Restrepo disagreed, writing in his ruling that American Future Systems "misses the point."

The Secretary’s position, as embodied in § 785.18, is that breaks of twenty minutes or less are of such short duration that they cannot, by their very nature, be used for “whatever personal task.”


Lawyers for American Future Systems declined to comment to the Inquirer. The company has until Thursday to submit how it plans to pay out the damages. Bathroom breaks were not factored into the deadline.

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