Pregnant? Have Morning Sickness or Need to Pee? Company Says Bathroom Breaks Are a Privilege, Not a Right

The news abounds that England is expecting a new member to the royal family, and that the Duchess of Cambridge was recently hospitalized for hyperemesis gravidarum, a brutal form of excessive nausea related to pregnancy that can often require medication, IV fluids and nutritional supplement to combat. As royalty, Kate will get the best of care. For everyday women, however, even standard symptoms, never mind complications, aren’t treated with nearly as much deference, especially not if you are a woman in the workplace.

Bathroom breaks for pregnant women are a privilege, not a right.

So claims National Processing of America, a call center being sued for unlawful termination after firing a pregnant employee, whom they believed took too many trips away from her desk to either vomit or just urinate. Their solution to her needing to run to the lavatory to be sick? She was provided with her own wastebasket to keep at her desk. So, besides being expected to vomit in front of her coworkers, apparently she and they were all expected to cope with the post-puke smell as well.

Nausea and the need to frequently urinate are pretty common when pregnant, and the employee had a high risk pregnancy as well. The company, however, was less than sympathetic.

Via WeTheParty:

On another occasion, defendant’s manager told plaintiff that defendant did not ‘pay [her] to pee,’ objecting to plaintiff’s necessity to use the bathroom when plaintiff experienced nausea or dizziness due to her pregnancy conditions. Defendant’s manager claimed to plaintiff it was not ‘fair to other employees’ for plaintiff to take excessive bathroom breaks. When plaintiff complained about being told that defendant did not ‘pay [her] to pee,’ defendant characterized plaintiff’s need to take bathroom breaks due to the conditions of her pregnancy as being ‘constantly out of her desk.

Few women have the ability to take leave from work when pregnancy becomes debilitating. But as long as companies are hostile to even the most basic needs of pregnant women, we can not achieve equality in the workplace. Morning sickness in some form is common. Frequent urination occurs in every pregnancy.

Women are in the workforce. Women get pregnant. Companies simply have to find a way to cope.

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  • big-softy

    This is a far cry away from UK laws on this subject.

    Over here, pregnant women have the right to pee pretty much anytime and anywhere they please.  In fact the law allows her to pee on a public highway, and even allows her to pee in a Policeman’s helmet upon request.  Although I can’t imagine your average copper granting that request.

    It’s from an anachronistic assumption that were a woman to give birth unexpectedly, the hard round nature of the helmet would be a perfect receptacle to catch a newborn.  The law might be obsolete, but it’s still on the statute books.

    Any UK employer trying to restrict access might well be faced with a woman’s right to pee right at her workstation with total impunity.

  • pheasantweber

    I enjoyed reading this. I had a situation in the past where people were whining that the women were taking too many bathroom breaks. However, they were all smokers (I am not). They would take just as many smoke breaks plus their bathroom breaks. SEXISM! I find it so weird when I hear stories of companies complaining about bathroom breaks. Trust me, you don’t want to know what is going on in there! Very intrusive.


  • ryotterox

    I had this same experience when working for a call center during my first pregnancy, and I wasn’t even to the excessive peeing part yet. I was expected to puke in a trashcan under my desk without missing a beat in my phone calls, or else I would be sent home. And then they told me I would be fired if I missed one more day, because they couldn’t attribute the days I was sent home to pregnancy until AFTER I saw an OB (even if the OB sent a note explaining how long I’d been pregnant) and as a Medicaid patient I had to see a free clinic and jump through some hoops first so I didn’t see an OB until 12 weeks – about the time morning sickness ended. All four supervisors I dealt with on this issue were male. Call centers in general are horrible places to work.

  • wendy-banks

    I had hyperemesis gravidarum with my daughter and some of the guys at work bitched at me about it and my need to hospitalized twice– I told them I would cheerfuly throw up in a trash can right in front of them– They told me to use the bathroom after that. I would even use the mens room if the ladies was locked. Any port in a storm ;)