Restroom Duty Off The Clock?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about  restroom duty:

I’ve been working for a smaller manufacturing company for several years. I’ve been reaping the benefits of making my own schedule and taking several weeks at a time of unpaid vacation. As the business has grown, however, the owner has gradually added tasks to my plate. Most recently he called a meeting and asked if there was anyone whom wished to be exempt from the new restroom cleaning policy. When no one replied, he stated, “Good. If you had said ‘yes’ you’d also have to cease in using it as well.”

As the meeting progressed, he explained exactly how he wanted the restroom clean, ending with the words, “I don’t pay you to use the restroom, and I’m not going to pay you to clean it.”

I have two issues with this plan. As an employer, isn’t he required to supply the most basic needs, and in a healthy atmosphere? Threatening to revoke restroom “privileges” seems condescending at best. Also, is he within his rights to insist that we do this new task off the clock? Thanks.

Signed, Yellow-Latex-Gloves-Deep-In-It

Dear Yellow-Latex-Gloves-Deep-In-It:

As I read through the e-mail, I went from thinking things were okay to thinking things were less that okay. When you said you boss had given you more responsibility, I thought that could be a good thing. That usually happens when someone trusts your work. When you talked about the meeting on the new restroom cleaning policy, I thought your boss was joking. He wasn’t was he? His comment that, “I don’t pay you to use the restroom, I’m not going to pay you to clean it” was just off base. You are correct in your point that he is wrong to ask for cleaning to be done off the clock.

The laws regarding work and paid time generally say that if you are at work, doing things you are asked and a part of the job ARE paid, especially if workers are hourly. If your boss asked the employees to clean up a conference room after a meeting, that would be paid time. If a manager asks the team to clean up their area after a big project is completed, that’s part of their work and also paid. A workplace restroom (or break room) is not an exception. In reality, if everyone just cleans up after himself or herself, how will he know if he is paying for those few minutes. He probably wouldn’t know, unless he is watching on a camera, which would be going too far. What are the other employees saying about the “clean up or don’t go” policy? Is your relationship generally good with your boss?

Maybe you can talk to him in a chatty way and ask, “If we are asked to do something that’s work related, such as a trip to the post office or to clean up the office, isn’t that paid time? See if you can get him to see the odd, inconsistent way he is viewing this. Or just let it go, because what he is saying is wrong, yet I’m not sure how he would know. If you want more detail on labor laws, you could contact your state department of labor and get their take on this. Doesn’t your boss have more important things to focus on? Good luck! WEGO is communicating our concerns and looking for solutions.

Steve Carney, Guest Respondent