Working Without A Break

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about breaks:

I am a cashier in a supermarket. It’s against company rules to request a short break, just to go to the bathroom. What can the employees do about that?

Signed, Need To Go!

Dear Need To Go!:

You may be working outside the United States, so we don’t know about those working laws. In the United States there are laws and regulations about breaks, although those vary from state to state. Consider looking at any laws and regulations that apply to your kind of work. You can usually find those on the Internet, referring to the Department of Labor for your country or state.

The primary concern of your boss is that customers won’t have anyone available to check them out,if a cashier is gone, even for a few minutes. It could be that taking breaks has been overdone in the past, so your manager or the business owner is trying to stop a further problem. But, more likely, they think the number of breaks they give is enough. It seems obvious to me–and you–that a bathroom break can’t always be scheduled that way.Maybe you and your coworkers can develop a way to ensure that if one of you take a break, someone will agree to take over the cash register. If you can find a way to show that the customers will be served even if you are gone for a few minutes, that would probably help sell the idea of allowing an occasional unscheduled break.

If you cannot find a way to do that, or if there are not enough employees to allow someone to cover for you during a break, you may need to simply talk to your manager and ask for suggestions about what to do in an emergency, when not taking a bathroom break could result in a very embarrassing situation. If you can describe it well enough, your manager may realize how awful the results could be.I’m hoping that you have a good enough relationship with your manager or employer, that you can talk reasonably and openly about issues such as this. Or, that you and your fellow employees can band together to show that all of you are unhappy with the policy and feel it is unfair. Best wishes to you with this situation. I don’t know your exact situation and there may be no easy solution. I’m hoping these thoughts will give you something to consider as you decide what to do.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.