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Ky. Plant Cited for Bathroom Policy

August 27, 2002

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CLERMONT, Ky. (AP) _ Employees at the Jim Beam bourbon distillery are getting sour over restrictions on bathroom breaks.

Workers on the bottling line are fuming about being limited to four breaks per 8 1/2 hour shift, only one of which can be unscheduled. Extra trips to the bathroom can result in reprimands. Workers with six violations can be fired.

The United Food and Commercial Workers local said some of the 100 affected employees have urinated on themselves because they were afraid to leave the line. Some wear protective undergarments and others have feigned illnesses to go home and avoid getting violations, said Jo Anne Kelley, president of the union local.

``It’s a shame when you feel you have the need to go to the bathroom, but you ask yourself, `Do I soil myself or do I protect my job?‴ Kelley said.

The state has slapped the distiller with a citation. Jim Beam appealed; a hearing officer on Wednesday is expected to recommend to a review commission whether to sustain or overrule the citation. The commission’s decision can be appealed in court.

Jim Beam Brands, headquartered in Deerfield, Ill., said its policy strikes a balance between employees’ physical needs and the company’s productivity needs. The company, which consulted a urologist before imposing the limits, said the time between breaks will generally be about two hours and never more than three.

``Our policy is fair and reasonable and it does respect the real needs that our employees have,″ said Jack Allen, human resources director at the Clermont plant, nestled between lush Kentucky hills about 25 miles south of Louisville.

The policy, which took effect in October, was instituted only at the Clermont plant because some workers abused the privilege of unlimited bathroom breaks, the company said.

Workers can be exempted with a doctor’s note. So far, 29 have gotten waivers for medical necessity and can go as often as needed, Allen said.

Margaret Boone, who has worked at the distillery for 34 years, has one violation on her record.

``I’ve held it and it’s miserable,″ said Boone, who has since obtained a medical waiver. ``You can only concentrate on looking at the clock and wondering when break time is going to be.″


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