The Supreme Court has issued a ruling that prohibits companies from recording their employees’ bathroom visits as part of their recognized meal breaks. Judges agree in CCOO case against a contact center company that made its employees take hourly bathroom visits during their lunch breaks. It also clarifies that time unable to work remotely due to power or internet outages beyond the employee’s control cannot be deducted from the workday.
The judges examined the case, which began with a lawsuit by Comisiones Obreras against the company Extel Contact Center, Adecco’s former telemarketing subsidiary. Sold in 2020 to ABS. There, the union denounced, workers were forced to specifically record the time they spent in the bathroom. At the work center in Malaga, the login application had a special section for toilet visits. In the rest, workers were forced to count these minutes as, for example, break time.
The national court was forceful in its condemnation of the company’s attitude towards men and women whose work in a contact center involves sitting all the time connecting to a call system. After recalling that “every human being has basic physiological needs” that cannot always be controlled, he explained in the first sentence that forcing these breaks to be recorded in this way “violates the worker’s dignity” and his right “to be treated as a human being at all times”, except , that this is discrimination against older employees.
CCOO and the other unions that supported their lawsuit also won a second charge after alleging that Extel deducted from employees’ hours the time they spent off work, for example, if they were telecommuting and there was a power outage or Internet is down. The judges heard that, first of all, the obligation to compensate for lost time was not imposed when there was a power outage in the office, and also that the malfunctioning of the work facility is attributable to the company, not the worker.
The right to go to the bathroom
The Supreme Court explains that the collective agreement includes a period of rest that the company can organize, but this range of possibilities “cannot include the time that the worker may need to satisfy his physiological needs, because it is not defined by the service.”
The Social Court judges remember that the worker’s right to go to the toilet during the working day is included in “all international, European and national standards”, needs that “must be covered because they are basic and essential. A person.” The Supreme Court explains that some workers looked at him the same, and others during meals, is discriminatory.
The need to go to the bathroom, he explains, can appear “at any other time during the service, so that we cannot consider that the time necessary to attend to it can be defined as the time of the rules of the contract that respond to other situations”, in this case, the time of eating.
Regarding work stoppages due to technical failures of electricity or internet on teleworking days, the Supreme Court noted that there was a difference in treatment between workers who provided services in person and those who did so from home: It can be worse than personal work,” the ruling said.
It is also the company’s mission to try to fix these technical glitches even when working remotely. And if that also doesn’t work, says the Supreme Court, “the employer cannot affect his inability to work when, in addition, although, of course, depending on the length of the outage, there are ways in which these outages can be corrected. “The employer must provide the means to be able to attend work.”
In recent years, the Supreme Court has clarified the ability of companies to count certain breaks as working hours, other than those provided for in the workers’ regulations or collective agreements. As elDiario.es revealed last March, the same Social Chamber of the Supreme Court ruled that workers must record breaks for smoking or drinking coffee.
He specified this in the case of employees at the Galp gas station, who, according to the CCOO, forced their workers to write such breaks in the work log. “Smoking or coffee breaks are not shown in the actual report to be effective working time, so the registration system, in this last extreme, cannot be said to have violated the stated principle,” the Supreme Court reasoned.
Source: El Diario