OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov.

March 10, 2014

Mr. Ryan Wiens
Temple, Texas 76502

Dear Mr. Wiens:

I am writing in response to your February 19, 2014 email to President Barack H. Obama, regarding the use of toilet facilities within the workplace. The President asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to respond to your inquiry.

We regret to hear about your mother-in-law's working conditions. Please note that OSHA's sanitation standard for general industry, 29 CFR 1910.141(c)(1)(i), requires employers to provide their employees with toilet facilities:

 

  1. Except as otherwise indicated in this paragraph (c)(1)(i), toilet facilities, in toilet rooms separate for each sex shall be provided in all places of employment in accordance with Table J-1 of this section...

 

The sanitation standard's intent is that toilet facilities must be made available and that employees are able to use toilet facilities promptly. In light of the standard's purpose of protecting employees from the hazards created when toilets are not available, it is clear that the standard requires employers to allow employees prompt access to sanitary facilities. Restrictions on access must be reasonable, and may not cause extended delays.

We recommend your mother-in-law discuss her concerns regarding rest/bathroom breaks with her employer. If she wishes to file a workplace safety or health complaint, she or a representative should contact OSHA's local area office in Austin by calling (512) 374-0271 or 1-800-321-6742 or file online at https://www.osha.gov/as/opa/worker/complain.html.

Additionally, if her employer retaliates against her by taking unfavorable personnel action (i.e., firing or laying off, reduction in pay or hours or suspension) for raising a health and safety concern or filing a safety complaint with OSHA, she may file a complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the retaliation. She should contact OSHA as soon as possible in order to file her complaint within the legal time limits. She can file a discrimination complaint with OSHA by visiting or calling the local OSHA office (512) 374-0271 or filing it online http://www.osha.gov/whistleblower/WBComplaint.html

Casey Perkins, Area Director
Austin Area Office
La Costa Green Building
1033 La Posada Drive, Suite 375
Austin, Texas 78752-3832
Telephone: (512) 374-0271
Fax: (512) 374-0086

The question of pay for rest/bathroom breaks are not within OSHA's jurisdiction. The Employment Standards Administration, Division of Wage and Hour, has provided guidance at 29 CFR §785.18, but you may wish to contact that agency directly, http://www.dol.gov/whd/contact_us.htm. State labor laws may also cover rest/bathroom breaks. The Wage and Hour Division office closest to you is the Dallas District Office:

US Department of Labor
Employment Standards Administration
Wage & Hour Division
1701 E. Lamar Blvd., Suite 270, Box 22
Arlington, TX 76006-7303
Telephone: (817) 861-2150

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope this provides the clarification you were seeking. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our interpretation letters/memoranda explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have any additional questions, please contact the Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-1850.

Sincerely,

Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs