Pregnant T-Mobile Employee Forced to Take Vacation Time to Use Bathroom, Fired Over 12 Cent Error
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T-Mobile forced a pregnant employee to clock out every time she used the restroom, even after she obtained, by company request, a doctor’s note urging her to drink more water, ABC reports.
Kristi Rifkin worked at company call center in Nashville for four years before she became pregnant with her third child. As she explained in a blog post for MomsRising.org, “it was a very, very rough pregnancy” that required special medication, twice weekly visits to the doctor, and high water intake.
As Rifkin naturally started using the restroom more often, her employers warned her that trips to the toilet were at the expense of company time. In her post, Rifkin describes the pressure she felt to keep her job, even going so far as putting her physical well being at risk by eating and drinking less.
“Essentially the message was, ‘You can go, but understand that if you don’t meet that metric at the end of the day, week and month, we have the opportunity to fill your seat,’” Rifkin writes. “They didn’t tell me that I couldn’t use the toilet. But the reality was that this is a metric on how your job is measured and if you don’t meet it, then you do not have your job.”
As her increased restroom use persisted, Rifkin’s supervisor asked her to get a doctor’s note saying she needed to fulfill a basic biological necessity. “And my doctor thought I was crazy,” Rifkin writes. “She told me, ‘I’m sure one person going to the toilet wouldn’t mean the collapse of an entire T-Mobile customer service center!’” However crazy the idea, Rifkin got the note to satisfy her employer.
But that wasn’t enough for the bosses. Rifkin’s supervisors asked her to clock out everytime she used the restroom, effectively punishing a pregnant employee for being pregnant. Rifkin needed every penny, so she continued eating and drinking less, and even used vacation time to use the restroom. Seven weeks before she gave birth to baby boy on May 14, 2010, Rifkin went on the Family Medical Leave Act, which requires employers to provide up to twelve-weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees.
A month and a half after she returned to work, Rifkin says she was fired, allegedly due to an uncharacteristic error that cost T-Mobile 12 cents. She received no severance and pays for all her medical expenses on her own.
As ABC reports, Tennessee is one of 42 states that don’t require paid rests periods.
“There is no specific legal requirement that requires employers to let their employees use the restroom,” Paula Brantner, the executive director of Workplace Fairness, told ABC. However, “If a pregnant woman is the only employee being forced to clock out, and they don’t require males or non-pregnant females to do so, it would seem to me that would be pregnancy discrimination.”
UPDATE (05/03/2013 1:00 PM EST): T-Mobile Chief People Officer Larry Myers responded with the following statement in the comments:
Sensational headlines are hard to ignore. Here are some facts you should know:
· Of course we make reasonable accommodations for all of our employees when they need time away from servicing our customers’ needs – and we did that three years ago in 2010 for this employee.
· Our industry-standard policies have been in place since 2008 and are understood by all of our call center employees.
· Beyond the breaks that are built into every shift for all of our call center employees, we have additional flexibility to give employees the time they need – especially when there is a medical need.
· After all reasonable accommodations have been exhausted, employees have a choice – they can take additional, unpaid breaks, or they can choose to apply their paid time off benefit. These decisions do not result in adverse performance evaluations.
· When a medical situation is involved and there is even more need for time away from the job, we work closely with our employees to consider potential Leave of Absence (LOA), then consider Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) time off.·· For this particular former employee, all of these things were discussed and utilized.
· T-Mobile is a values-based organization that has 5 times in a row been awarded as one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies.” And our employees continue to tell us that they enjoy working at T-Mobile. In a recent anonymous third party employee satisfaction survey, 78% of T-Mobile’s employees said they are satisfied with their job and 83% said they are proud to work at the company, placing T-Mobile on par with the top 25% of all companies surveyed in the United States.
Please consider the facts, and judge for yourself.