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Restroom Break Laws

Discussing bathroom breaks at the workplace can embarrass people; however, it is a necessary communication between employers and employees. Here are a few things you should know about restroom/bathroom break labor laws.

OSHA Sanitation Standard

OSHA requires employers to provide employees with toilet facilities in restrooms separated for men and women. Employers may not impose unreasonable restrictions on the facilities' use and employees should not take an excessive amount of time for bathroom use and notify another employee of his or her absence when appropriate. Due to the varying nature of bathroom necessity, no specific regulations exist.

OSHA states: "employees will not suffer adverse health effects that can result if toilets are not available when employees need them." However, OSHA also acknowledges that how frequently individuals need to use restroom a facility varies significantly.

Restriction and Usage

Restrooms must be reasonably accessible to employees. Any restrictions an employer implements on restroom access is monitored on a case-by-case basis. No federal standard for the number of allowed restroom breaks or any specific restroom usage schedule exists.

The number of restrooms provided depends upon the number of employees working in any given place. As a general rule, one restroom is required for up to 15 employees, six facilities per 150 workers, and an additional fixture for every 40 employees beyond that. Additionally, bathrooms should be placed no further than a quarter mile from employees in all industries.

Restroom Structure

According to federal law, men and women must be provided with separate bathroom facilities. Each facility should be single occupancy, include locks, and be separated by partitions. Restrooms are also required to have sanitary hand washing facilities, including soap, water, and towels or dryers.

Medical Considerations

Everyone's restroom needs are different and certain medical conditions require employees to use the restroom with increased frequency. Some common conditions that require frequent restroom usage include pregnancy, urinary tract infections, constipation, abdominal pain, diverticulitis, and hemorrhoids. Also, medical studies have proven that, in general, women need to use the restroom more often than men.

You can learn more about OSHA's interpretation of restroom break laws on the U.S. Department of Labor OSHA website.