HR Administration

And We Have an Early Leader for Worst Employer of the Year

By Jon Hyman

Jan. 7, 2016

A federal court judge has ordered a Philadelphia-area publishing company, American Future Systems, to pay its employees $1.75 million in unpaid wages. The company’s sin? It docked its employees for time spent going to the bathroom.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Labor Department filed a lawsuit, saying the company violated the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act because employees weren’t earning the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour due to the company’s policy of requiring workers to clock out while they were going to the bathroom or grabbing coffee or a smoke.”

In its decision, the court applied a bright-line rule to conclude that whenever a work-break lasts 20 minutes or less, it must be paid, no execptions. For more on this rule, click here.

Putting aside the illegality of a policy that docks employees’ pay every time they go to the bathroom, who in their right mind would want to work for an employer that tracks their every move within the workplace like tagged wildlife? If an employee is abusing bathroom time (e.g., taking excessive breaks to avoid work, doing a crossword puzzle instead of taking care of business) treat the performance deficiency via counseling or discipline. But, to adopt a company-wide policy that docks employees for their potty time is not just illegal, but a horrendous employee-relations move.

For this reason, I officially nominate American Future Systems as the worst employer of 2016 (so far).

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at

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