When You Gotta Go… Court Finds Restroom Break Policy Discriminatory

August 4, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio has ruled that a female crane operator who was told she would have to urinate off the back of a crane when she needed a restroom break can go forward with her discrimination suit.

The court said that “given the obvious anatomical and biological differences between men and women, and the unique hygienic needs of women, … the practice of requiring women to urinate off the side of a crane in lieu of restroom breaks, if true, would have a significant discriminatory impact on women.” In denying the employer’s request for summary judgment, the court determined that plaintiff Cassandra Johnson presented significant evidence that the requirement to urinate off the back of the crane had a disparate impact on female employees.

In addition, according to the opinion, evidence that crane operators worked 12 hour shifts, that the cranes ran continuously, and that male crane operators urinated off their cranes instead of taking restroom breaks was enough evidence for a reasonable jury to conclude that this was a condition of employment.

When Johnson refused to adhere to the policy, the company tried to find another position for her; however she wanted to work as a crane operator, so she quit.

The district court moved forward Johnson’s claim of discrimination based on gender, but dismissed her claim of constructive discharge as she did have the option to continue working for the company in another position.

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