A Tennessee woman who was working at T-Mobile’s Nashville’s call center while pregnant says that she was forced her to clock out to use the bathroom and was eventually fired.
Kristi Rifkin, 40, told ABC News that she had been working at the call center for over four years when her doctor told her to increase her water intake due to a high-risk pregnancy. But the frequent trips to the bathroom hurt her ability to meet metrics set by the company.
“They give you two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch,” she said. “If you can’t take care of your biological needs in that time period, you don’t go.”
Rifkin tried cut back on the amount of water she was drinking, but her pregnancy suffered. So she resumed the water intake and a T-Mobile supervisor soon demanded to see a doctor’s note.
”At that point, I thought my head was going to launch off my shoulders,” Rifkin recalled. “‘Are you serious? I need to get a note from my doctor to go to the toilet?’ This is a basic biological need.’”
After getting the doctor’s note, Human Resources cleared her to use the restroom — but only if she clocked out first.
“I ended up using my vacation time to use the bathroom,” Rifkin explained.
After she used the Family Medical Leave Act to have her job protected while she delivered the baby, she returned to work and was fired about six weeks later. T-Mobile said that she had failed to remove a charge from a customer’s account and benefited with 12 cents in commission.
Tennessee’s at-will employment law means that employers “may legally hire, fire, suspend or discipline any employee at any time and for any reason – good or bad – or for no reason at all,” according to the state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development website.
Workplace Fairness Executive Director Paula Brantner explained to ABC News that T-Mobile could have been engaging in pregnancy discrimination if the company did not also force men to clock out to use the toilet, but there was “no specific legal requirement that requires employers to let their employees use the restroom.”
T-Mobile spokesperson Glenn A. Zaccara would not comment on the case to ABC News. He said that T-Mobile “has leave of absence policies in line with regulatory requirements.”
Rifkin said that she had no plans to sue the company because she could not afford it.
“I’m done with T-Mobile,” she said. “I don’t want anything to do with them anymore.”
[Photo: Facebook/Kristi Rifkin]