Void Where Prohibited

Books that led to the OSHA Toilet Regulations

Void Where Prohibited: Rest Breaks and the Right to Urinate on Company Time
by Prof Marc Linder and Ingrid Nygaard M.D.

Hardcover: 192 pages ; Dimensions: 0.75″ x 9.5″ x 6.5″
Publisher: Ilr Pr; (January 1998)
ISBN: 0801433908

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Void Where Prohibited Revisited: The Trickle-Down Effect of OSHA’s At-Will Bathroom-Break Regulation
by Marc Linder

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Even before it appeared at the end of 1997, Void Where Prohibited: Rest Breaks and the Right to Urinate on Company Time had mobilized public opinion to pressure the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to abandon its preposterous position that its industrial sanitation standard, which requires employers to provide toilets, did not obligate them to let workers use those toilets. On April 6, 1998, OSHA finally issued a Memorandum declaring that the “standard requires employers to make toilet facilities available so that employees can use them when they need to do so.” Thus with a few keystrokes, OSHA had created a right for tens of mil-lions of workers to stop work when they need to void. Or had it? Was this establishment of at-will bathroom breaks worth the cyberspace it was posted in? How do labor-protective regulations get enforced in a world of: powerful employers opposed to government interference with their control of employees’ time; workers, 90 percent of whom in the private-sector are nonunion, afraid to assert their rights or file a complaint; and an understaffed OSHA that fails to pursue complaints vigorously (or, in the unique case of California OSHA, refuses even to comply with its obligation to insure that its standard and interpretation are “‘at least as effective’ as the Federal standard”)?

Five years on, Void Where Prohibited Revisited: The Trickle-Down Effect of OSHA’s At-Will Bathroom-Break Regulation answers these questions by analyzing all the citations that OSHA has issued to employers for violating their obligation to let workers go to the bathroom and by interviewing OSHA officials, labor union officers, workers, and employers. Since many who are free to go to the bathroom doubt stories about workers who have been forced to void on themselves or been disciplined for using the toilet without permission, OSHA reports documenting these practices are quoted in detail. Special attention is devoted to the dispute at the Jim Beam bourbon plant in Kentucky, which, thanks to the employer’s appeal of a (non-monetary) citation for denying workers access to the bathroom, sparked an illuminating hearing, whose high point was testimony by the employer’s urologist that even if workers wound up defecating on themselves, “it’s a social problem, not a medical problem.”

Marc Linder, a labor law professor at the University of Iowa who also worked at Texas Rural Legal Aid representing farm-workers, has written widely on labor law, labor economics, labor relations, and labor history.

Table of Contents

Preface: The Inaccessible Abode of Elimination Within the No Longer Hidden Abode of Production / vii
Acknowledgments / x
Note on Nomenclature and Sources / xii

I Pressure

1  Books Have Their Fates-And So Do Laws / 3
2  Void Where Prohibited and Its Impact on OSHA’s Interpretive About-Face / 10
3  Iowa OSHA Anticipates Federal OSHA / 23

II An Historical-Exclusionary Interlude

4  How OSHA Almost Revoked Its Toilet Standard in 1978 / 31
5  Groups of Workers Not Even Covered by OSHA’s Toilet Standard / 49

III Promulgation: Voiding on the Man’s Time

6  OSHA Comes to Its Senses / 73
7  Is OSHA’s Interpretation Valid as a Matter of Administrative Law? / 83
8  Reactions to OSHA’s New Interpretation / 91

IV An International Comparative Interlude

9  Meanwhile Up in Civilized Canada: Pee for a Fee / 117
10  Oui Oui to Wee Wee:
The Freedom to Go to the Bathroom As a Fundamental Human Right in France /127

V Post-April 6, 1998 Enforcement

11 The Few, The Proud, The Citations / 139
12 Relatively Vigorous Complaint-Driven Enforcement:
UFCW-Organized Animal Slaughter Plants in Iowa / 186
13 Bourbon and Urine Don’t Mix: Jim Beam in Kentucky / 197
14 Precocious But Meager Enforcement for Bus Drivers: Washington / 278
15 And Bringing Up the Rear: Cal/OSHA / 290

VI Human Waste and Capitalist Efficiency

16 A Golden Age for the Golden Stream? / 301
17 Is At-Will Voiding Now “The Law”? / 324

Appendix I ANSI and OSHA Workplace Toilet Standards from 1935 to the Present / 343
Appendix II OSHA’s Interpretive Memorandum of April 6, 1998 / 354
Appendix III OSHA’s Agricultural Sanitation Standard / 359
Appendix IV OSHA’s Construction Sanitation Standard / 362
Appendix V Data Methodology and Sources: OSHA
Inspection Reports and Citations / 365
Index / 373

Fanpìhuà Press ISBN 0-9719594-0-4   $8.00  –  Books can be ordered from

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Northside Book Market – 319-466-9330 – bookmark@inav.net

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