Excessive Bathroom Breaks, Parking Lot Problems, and Talking About Termination

“I have an employee who takes their phone into the bathroom for 20 minutes!” – You Asked, We Answered
Hello once again, AADOM tribe! April has arrived. Hopefully, the temperature is warming up where you are, and the flowers are blooming again. We also hope your local grocery store is fully stocked with allergy meds.
This month, we received a ton of great questions from you. Keep them coming! We answer them here and cover a few over on the What the Hell Just Happened?! Podcast. Remember, any time you have an HR issue that either stumps you or want a different perspective on how to solve it, submit it here for Paul and his team of experts to help you each month during HR Tuesday.
If you’re new here, once a month, CEDR’s team of experts weigh in and answer three of the HR questions from your community on AADOM’s HR Tuesday article and live webcast. Be sure to tune in live or check the rebroadcast if you can’t make it. For this edition, CEDR’s Solution Center Manager Grace Godlasky will go into much more detail (with AADOM superstar Heather Colicchio), and answer questions submitted by the audience in the moment!
Always remember that your daily employee interactions likely have some state, federal, or local employment laws that you must consider when trying to find the best human way to solve the core problem. We will fit the two together during our answers and help you devise some great resolutions.
Let’s turn it over to the HR Experts and get to those answers… Here are some of your best submissions this month:

“I have an employee who takes her phone into the bathroom for over 20 minutes, 3 times a day. When addressing the amount of time, she denied having any medical issue but didn’t seem to understand that this is an issue. HELP!! Her teammates are getting so mad because she is gone from her desk constantly. I just don’t know what I can and can not say.”
“What is the office’s responsibility if an employee is asked to park at an adjacent parking lot? Walking to and from the office if they fall or don’t feel safe getting to their car?”
“After terminating an employee, what are the best practices in communicating with the team? Should you be transparent in why the employee was terminated? Or, should you just let them know that the employee is no longer with the practice and we wish them well?”

Let’s Get to the Answers
Question: “I have an employee who takes her phone into the bathroom for over 20 minutes, 3 times a day. When addressing the amount of time, she denied having any medical issue but didn’t seem to understand that this is an issue. HELP!! Her teammates are getting so mad because she is gone from her desk constantly. I just don’t know what I can and can not say.”
The Legal Side of Things: In certain instances, an employee may have a medical condition that requires frequent trips to the restroom, extended stays in that restroom, and even perhaps the use of a cell phone if it’s used to monitor the medical condition. However, since that is not the case here, your main controlling framework is your policy on breaks, personal cell phones, and your consistency in enforcing those policies.
First, verify what types of breaks your state law permits. Federal law doesn’t require that you offer breaks of any certain length, but many states do. Before taking any action with this employee, you need to ensure that you’re not trying to prevent her from taking any breaks that have legal protection around them. For example, if the law lets employees take two 10-minute breaks and one 30-minute lunch break, your focus needs to be on the break time being taken that goes beyond those parameters.
Notably, federal law allows you to have employees clock out for a break lasting over 20 minutes. So that can be a starting place for you as well. Remind the employee that these extended breaks are unpaid, and that’s going to be tracked on her time card. If the employee is truly trying to take advantage of you by milking the clock, this may be a very quick remedy to the problem.
The Human Approach: Most of us can identify that family member who tucks the newspaper under his arm and walks with determination to the bathroom (we won’t be seeing Uncle John for a while.)
Nobody wants to be the potty police, and in the same token allowing an issue like this to go unaddressed can cause productivity and morale issues on your team. Finding a way to have a conversation with the person about this issue without feeling like you’re handing out bathroom passes all day is the right balance.
You may opt to have a conversation with the employee where you say, “When you take your phone to the restroom, it gives the appearance you’re extending your break time or attending to personal business instead of working. This can cause issues with team morale and overall fairness across the team. Please follow our policies on breaks going forward and let me know if there is anything I can help you do to comply with those expectations.”
REMEMBER, HR TUESDAY DEPENDS ON THE AADOM TRIBE ASKING GREAT HR-RELATED QUESTIONS! Submit your HR questions for CEDR to discuss on the next HR Tuesday LiveCast here!
Question: “What is the office’s responsibility if an employee is asked to park at an adjacent parking lot? Walking to and from the office if they fall or don’t feel safe getting to their car?”
The Legal Perspective: Let’s tackle the legal considerations first. You might think that companies have to provide parking right at the business door, but that’s not usually the case. Legally speaking, there’s no rule that says employers must have a parking lot for their team. However, if you decide to have everyone park in a lot down the street and one of your employees ends up taking a tumble or feeling unsafe on their way to or from work, that’s where it gets interesting.
This is where workers’ compensation can come into play. If you didn’t know, workers’ compensation laws are there to cover employee injuries that happen while doing something the job requires, which could include walking from a designated parking spot to the office. But remember, this can vary a lot depending on where you are and your specific insurance policy terms.
Now for the Human Approach: Now, on the more human side of things, it’s really about understanding and empathy. If employees are worried about the trek from the parking lot to the office, it’s worth taking a moment to see things from their perspective. Are there potholes you could twist an ankle in? Is it a poorly lit path that makes you feel like you’re in a horror movie? Or maybe there’s a sketchy vibe with people hanging around that doesn’t sit right.
If these concerns are based on real issues, it’s a clear signal to reassess the situation. Remember, at the core, it’s about ensuring everyone feels safe and valued. This kind of situation could also result in poor retention or hiring troubles if left unaddressed. On the flip side, if the fear isn’t backed by concrete problems, it doesn’t mean you should just shrug it off. Communication is key here. It’s about opening up a dialogue, understanding where people are coming from, and maybe even educating them on the safety measures in place.
But at the end of the day, whether the fears are founded or not, it’s about not brushing off your team’s concerns. Finding a middle ground, offering alternatives, or simply making sure there’s a safe, well-lit path can make a world of difference. It shows you care, and in a world where the little things count, that can mean everything.
Question: “After terminating an employee, what are the best practices in communicating with the team? Should you be transparent in why the employee was terminated? Or, should you just let them know that the employee is no longer with the practice and we wish them well?”
The Legal Perspective: There’s no legal obligation to provide employees with information about someone else’s departure. There also isn’t anything legally preventing you from discussing it. So, when we dive deeper into the legal side of communicating an employee’s departure, you’re in the clear to share or not share the reasons behind someone’s exit.
However, the twist comes when confidentiality agreements, such as those found in severance packages, enter the picture. If you’ve promised to keep the reasons for the departure under wraps, then your lips need to stay sealed to avoid any legal backlash.
Moreover, even without explicit agreements, it’s wise to tread carefully to avoid defamation, privacy violations, or creating a hostile work environment. Discussing an employee’s termination can quickly veer into sensitive territory, and sharing too much (or the wrong thing) could potentially lead to legal headaches if the departed employee feels they’ve been wronged or their privacy has been infringed upon.
So, while you’re not shackled by law to silence, it’s smart to weigh the benefits of sharing against the potential risks. Ensuring your communication strategy is guided by both legal advice and common sense is key to navigating these waters smoothly.
Now for the Human Approach: On the human side, navigating the aftermath of an employee’s termination with grace and respect is essential. The goal here is two-fold: to honor the dignity of the person who’s left and to maintain the trust and morale of those who remain.
It’s a delicate balance between being transparent and preserving the privacy and respect owed to the individual who has departed. You want to show respect to your former employees, both to avoid any issues popping up with them but also so your current team sees that they can expect you to be respectful to them as well when and if they leave the business.
Honesty, without delving into unnecessary details, is your best policy. It’s not about airing dirty laundry or sparking office gossip; it’s about acknowledging the change in a way that respects everyone involved. By focusing on the future and the continuity of the team, you signal that while change is part of business, the way it’s handled is what truly defines your company culture.
In most cases, you can keep it short and to the point, letting them know the employee is no longer with the company, who to go to for questions, who is handling their workload for the time being, and what your plans are for replacing them.
Ultimately, the human approach is about ensuring your team feels valued and secure, even in times of transition. It’s about building a culture where respect and professionalism guide difficult conversations and where employees feel supported and informed about changes that affect their work environment.
HAVE A QUESTION FOR CEDR? Submit your HR questions for CEDR to discuss on the next HR Tuesday LiveCast here!

 

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