No flush, but two of a kind win in a workplace toilet dispute

June 5, 2012
By Eric B. Meyer on June 5, 2012 7:00 AM | | Comments

toiletHey employers! You know what's stupid? My tongue-in-cheek pun on despicable workplace conditions. Depriving employees of bathroom privileges. Even dumber is firing them after they complain to state regulators about the lack of an onsite toilet. 

One company recently learned this lesson the hard way. Details after the jump...

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Aimee Green of The Oregonian reports here that a federal jury has awarded $332,000 to two employees who complained to state regulators about the lack of a toilet at their job site:

Douglas Eki and Xerxes "Jason" Doctolero did mechanical work at Portland International Airport and urinated in a bucket or worse yet -- soiled their clothing -- because they couldn't get to a toilet fast enough.
During a week-long trial that ended Friday, the men testified that their employer -- Menzies Aviation -- refused to provide them with a toilet and that using the restrooms of neighboring businesses that leased space in the airport's east cargo center wasn't a solution. The businesses didn't welcome them or were sometimes closed.
After months of frustration and three accidents, Eki complained to the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division in June 2010. An OSHA inspector visited Menzies Aviation the following month. Both men cooperated with the inspector, and on Aug. 6, 2010, OSHA cited the company for failing to provide restroom facilities. The men were fired later that month.

The company's defense was that the men continued to use the bucket after being told not to do so. But the employees presented evidence that a company vice president ordered their termination almost immediately after learning about the OSHA citation.

"If someone did it here in Dallas I'd have them gone by the time they zipped up," Phil Harnden, a Menzies vice president, wrote in an email to managers on Aug. 10. "... They have got to go -- there is no place for them in Menzies. Tell me when it will be done by."

Note to employers: if you are accused of robbing employees of their dignity, bad emails don't play well with a jury. Further humiliating the employees by making them testify to a jury of their peers about having to pee in buckets and soil themselves is an overall questionable trial strategy.