Kristi Rifkin had been working at T-Mobile Call Center in Nashville for four years when she entered a difficult pregnancy, requiring "tons and tons" of water and frequent trips to the bathroom.
“They give you two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch,” Rifkin told ABC News. “If you can’t take care of your biological needs in that time period, you don’t go.”
Taking trips to the bathroom would cut into "adherence," the amount of time an employee spends on the phone with customers. Rifkin says T-Mobile would fire employees who don't meet their quota of phone time.
Rifkin's supervisor told her she needed to get a doctor's note in order to use the restroom more frequently, which she did despite her outrage.
Human Resources then said she could use the restroom at any time, but that she would have to clock out. “This meant I was out of work for five minutes,” she said. “I ended up using my vacation time to use the bathroom."
|Fired T-Mobile employee Kristi Rifki and family|
Rifkin was fired a month and a half after she returned from maternity leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. She says she was fired for failing to remove an extra-charge feature from a customer’s account, a rare error with a commission of just 12 cents. She got no severance, she said, and now pays for medical expenses out of pocket.
Tennessee is an at-will employment state, and Rifkin says she has no plans to sue, as it would be too expensive. "They can fire you for any reason,” she said.
Paula Brantner, executive director of Workplace Fairness says that there is no legal requirement for allowing employee bathroom breaks. But, she added, “If a pregnant woman is the only employee being forced to clock out, and they don’t require males or non-pregnant females to do so, it would seem to me that would be pregnancy discrimination.”
Only eight states require rest periods for employees, and Tennessee isn't one of them. “T-Mobile employees enjoy generous benefits including paid-time-off and short and long-term disability coverage,” the company said in a statement to ABC News. “The company has leave of absence policies in line with regulatory requirements.”