Employers that make it difficult for employees to take breaks or keep a regular schedule may face resistance—and legal claims from disabled workers who need accommodations. But they don’t have to worry about lawsuits from older workers who claim the lack of breaks is age discrimination.
Recent case: When Bright House Networks set new performance standards for call center workers, some older employees claimed they had to take fewer restroom breaks in order to meet their call quotas, causing them to soil themselves because they couldn’t get to the toilets.
In addition, the new rules required employees to bid on the shifts they would work, based on sales performance. The older workers said they were at a dangerous disadvantage—poor eyesight made it hard to drive to the night shifts they were frequently stuck with.
They sued, claiming the new rules were meant to get rid of older employees.
The company said the new rules were needed to remain competitive and encourage hard work.
The court rejected the workers’ age discrimination claim. It pointed out that younger workers were also affected and that the older workers hadn’t shown that their age had anything to do with their ability to control their bladders and bowels or see while driving. Since they didn’t purport to be disabled—and thus entitled to accommodations—they had no case. (Deaguila, et al., v. Bright House Networks, No. 8:10-CV-1058, MD FL, 2011)
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