HR Strange But True!
August 29, 2008

Jack Paar caused a furor and drew the ire of NBC censors when he tried to use a joke containing the words "water closet" on The Tonight Show. Well, hope you excuse your SBT editors for bringing back the term for a roundup of stories concerning--well, you know.

No Bathroom Breaks for Olympic Rehearsal Participants

Over 900 Chinese soldiers participating in the spectacular Olympics opening ceremony were forced to wear adult "nighttime" diapers because bathroom breaks were forbidden during the 7-hour rehearsals (and we assume during the actual ceremony), according to several sources. The excuse given was the intricate choreography, where the absence of even one participant could throw off the formations. Perhaps their status in the military precluded the soldiers from any Chinese workplace break requirements, if there are any. However, Huffington Post blogger Lily Tan said she tried to get a statement from "both the BOCOG [Beijing Organizing Committee of the 29th Olympic Games] communications and opening ceremonies operations departments, but they could not be reached for comment--perhaps they were in the bathroom when I rang."

Woman Told to Urinate Off Back of Crane Wins Right to Sue

BLR's HR Manager's Legal Reporter reports that a female crane operator filed suit against her employer, charging disparate impact discrimination because she was told to take her bathroom breaks off the back of the machine so that the crane would not be left "unmanned" [our word] during long shifts. She also said that when she balked at the idea, she was told she could be transferred. She wanted to run a crane, so she brought suit. Her supervisors denied these conversations in their testimony. However, the court found in her favor to proceed with litigation, stating that "given the obvious anatomical and biological differences between men and women and the unique hygienic needs of women," asking women to take restroom breaks off the back of a crane would indeed have a discriminatory impact on women. The case is headed to trial.

Johnson v. AK Steel , U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, No. 1:07-cv-291 (5/23/08).

Cashier Denied Break Awarded $200,000

The National Law Journal (August 18, 2008) reports that a grocery worker, who was refused a bathroom break by her manager because she was the only cashier on duty, was awarded $200,000 by a jury who was sympathetic to the unfortunate results of the denial. The worker, who had returned from FMLA leave for treatment of throat cancer, had informed store management that her continued treatment required her to drink large quantities of water. The day of the incident, the cashier had requested a break three times from a manager before she was forced to void herself at the register. Yet fearing for her job, she continued working until the manager returned to give her permission to leave. The store's explanation was that a new manager was unaware of the cashier's condition; the plaintiff maintained that the store did not provide reasonable accommodation for her condition.

Company Asks Homeworkers to Preschedule Bathroom Breaks Days in Advance

The Wall Street Journal reports in an article on managing home-based workers through electronic monitoring that some "Big Brother"-type measures require workers to preschedule unpaid bathroom breaks--so much for "when Nature calls." Some companies, particularly in the sales and customer service fields, discourage workers from leaving their computers at all and keep tabs by taking periodic "screen shots" and monitoring keystrokes so that short bathroom runs would be noticed. Rather, workers are encouraged to schedule breaks in increments of one-half hour 2 to 3 days in advance, rather than stopping for a few minutes for a quick trip. Wonder what urologists think of this practice.

NASA Workers Asked for Urine Samples to Test Space Lavatory

Workers at NASA's Houston facility were asked to volunteer their urine to help the Life Support Systems department test toilets for the next generation of space capsules, including those for the next phase of moon landings, according to an article in Ananova.

The details of the request, which were never meant to go public, cautioned volunteers not to "overhydrate" during the testing period, because the testers did not want "diluted" samples for this project. The testers also wanted "the entire stream" for samples, which also could not be over an hour old.

Sources: Various News Outlets

TGIF - It's HR
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