Much has been written about the awful conditions at poultry plants throughout the U.S. (and particularly in the South). But a new report by Oxfam America reveals a whole new level of ugly.
According to the 15-page report, entitled “No Relief: Denial of Bathroom Breaks in the Poultry Industry,” workers at these facilities are so routinely denied the right to use the bathroom at work, many have taken to wearing diapers during their shift. Some lower their food and drink intake to dangerous levels to avoid the urgent need to use the restroom. Women who are menstruating and pregnant often suffer the most. In general, women are biologically more susceptible to bladder-related infections. In many cases, workers are suffering infections, such as urinary tract infections, and bowel and bladder damage as a result of being forced to remain on the line when they desperately need to use the restroom.
Not only does this kind of practice offend workers’ dignity, it is a serious threat to their health. They endure not just the pain and discomfort of being unable to use the restroom, they suffer the emotional scars of humiliation and the severe stress of concern for their job security.
It’s well known that this type of work is difficult, demanding and at times exhausting. But companies are unnecessarily robbing people of their basic human dignity and health.
The report details the fact that although the poultry processing industry has grown rapidly in recent years, it has the ability and the duty to ensure the human needs of its workers are met. One of the main reasons worker are denied bathroom breaks by supervisors has to do with a lack of “floaters.” These are individuals who can step in on the line to assist when a worker needs to step out to use the bathroom. It’s understood that the processes in these facilities rely on many cogs in the wheel. If one person steps off the line, the entire line slows down. That puts a lot of pressure on workers – and on their supervisors too. But having an adequate number of floaters would easily resolve this issue.
Researchers say denial of regular bathroom breaks is not only an obvious violation of federal workplace safety laws, it’s also likely a violation of anti-discrimination statutes.
Another potential work injury risk as a result of this problem is falls. Workers are often made to wait anywhere from 10 minutes to over an hour when they need to take a restroom break, according to the study authors. Then, when they are released, they are often only given a short window of time to do their business and come back. But poultry plants are typically large facilities. Workers may have to travel from one end to the other. Floors often slippery with water, blood and fat. Workers need to remove their protective gear and safely make their way to the other side. By then, they barely have enough time to use the facilities before they have to hurry back.
If you are a North Carolina poultry employee who has been injured on the job, we can help ensure you receive compensation.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
No Relief: Denial of Bathroom Breaks in the Poultry Industry, May 11, 2016, Oxfam America
More Blog Entries:
Workers’ Compensation for Psychiatric Injury, May 6, 2016, Greensboro Workers’ Compensation Lawyer