Jim Beam Workers Denied Access

Jim Beam Bathroom Break Policy

Jay Leno Joke, Along with Public Outcry,
Helps Bring Bathroom Pass to Jim Beam Workers
Source: UFCW
Ref: Jim Beam Brands Company, a unit of Fortune Brands Inc., bottling plant in Clermont, Kentucky

In an attempt to return past employee practices, the subject Jim Beam plant implemented a bathroom break policy in September 2001 that dictated when employees could relieve themselves.   The new policy resulted in a citation by Kentucky state regulators for violating the States version of their OSHA Toilet Regulations.  Jim Beam is fighting this citation.  While limited to Kentucky, if Jim Beam wins the right to restrict workers’ access to the restroom, it undermines the only Federal Regulation that defines the negative health impact of denying people the right to go to the toilet.

As documented in the book Void Where Prohibited, there is a good chance this policy will not improve productivity.   What is more certain is that it will tarnish their corporate image, reduce the quality of life of their employees, and probably impact their workers health.  People can suffer from many conditions that require them, to at times, urgently need to use a restroom. When access is denied, there are consequences.

Medical studies show the importance of regular urination, with women generally needing to void more frequently than men. Adverse health effects that may result from voluntary urinary retention include increased frequency of urinary tract infections (UTIs), which can lead to more serious infections and, in rare situations, renal damage (see, e.g., Nielsen, A. Waite, W., “Epidemiology of Infrequent Voiding and Associated Symptoms,” Scand J Urol Nephrol Supplement 157). UTIs during pregnancy have been associated with low birthweight babies, who are at risk for additional health problems compared to normal weight infants (see, Naeye, R.L., “Causes of the Excess Rates of Perinatal Mortality and the Prematurity in Pregnancies Complicated by Maternity Urinary Tract Infections,” New England J. Medicine 1979; 300(15); 819-823). Medical evidence also shows that health problems, including constipation, abdominal pain, diverticuli, and hemorrhoids, can result if individuals delay defecation (see National Institutes of Health (NJH) Publication No. 95-2754, July 1995).
Source: 29 CFR 1910.141(c)(1)(i)

Not mentioned but also of concern is a negative uro-dynamic syndrome that happens to people who must often concentrate to avoid wetting themselves.   As their bladder reaches its limit their bladder neck [sphincter] muscles clamp to avoid leakage.   Over time the muscle strengthens, becomes enlarged and begins to restrict urine flow.   This restriction causes the muscle that empties the bladder [detrusor] to strengthen and become thick.  This thicken bladder wall cannot expand easily leading to less capacity.   After a few years the Jim Beam’s Policy has the potential to actually increase the times their employees need to urinate.

Fortune Brands was a leading consumer products company.  A policy that results in some employees wearing diapers at one of their Units is an image most Corporations would avoid.

Advocacy Group or People

United Food and Commercial Workers Union
Contact – Robyn Robbins 202-223-3111 x 1582
UFCW Press Release
Ingrid Nygaard MD (Testified on behalf of the workers at Trial)

Media Coverage of Jim Beam

The Wall Street Journal (8/29/02)
Boston Globe 9/29/2002 )
United Food and Commercial Workers Union (8/02)
The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky (8/21/02)
Penton Media Occupational Hazards 08/30/2002
Chicago Tribune (8/29/02)

Media Coverage of the broader issue

Firm docks workers wages for toilet breaks
Hazards Magazine



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