A Tennessee woman has become victim of a bizarre employment discrimination case, as she was fired from the T-Mobile corporation for using the bathroom while pregnant. Yes, of all things, the bathroom.
Kristi Rifkin, 40, opened up about the ridiculous scrutiny she was subject to for being accused of spending too much of her time at work fulfilling a basic biological need. Now that this case has come to public attention, this will become a PR nightmare for the major cell phone company.
Rifkin didn’t always have animosity towards the company, but things took a poor turn once she became pregnant with her second child. Rifkin said that her pregnancy was at high risk. She was actively seeing two obstetricians who were adamant that she drink an abundance of fluids to improve the health of her growing child. As one can imagine, this caused more than average trips to the bathroom.
“They give you two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch. “If you can’t take care of your biological needs in that time period, you don’t go,” Rifkin said.
While at work her use of the facilities became a problem for her supervisors, as they claimed that her time spent away from the phone resulted in poor “adherence.” This term is used to describe an employee’s minimum quota of time one has to spend on the phone. Apparently Rifkin wasn’t up to par with this quota, and this was when tensions grew.
At this point things became even more bizarre, when Rifkin’s supervisor demanded she provide a doctor’s note in order to be granted permission to use the bathroom. Rifkin was thoroughly shocked and astounded that her job was in jeopardy for simply having to go to the bathroom.
“At that point, I thought my head was going to launch off my shoulders. Are you serious? I need to get a note from my doctor to go to the toilet? This is a basic biological need,” Rifkin remarked.
However Rifkin complied and got the doctor’s note. When it came time to use the facilities, Human Resources required her to physically clock out and clock back in, docking her pay for not being at her desk for all of five minutes. Rifkin essentially had to use her vacation time for fear of being terminated.
Eventually Rifkin left on the Family Medical Leave Act, which calls for upwards of a 12-week unpaid leave of absence. After the birth of her son, Rifkin returned to T-Mobile but was soon fired. She was terminated on the grounds of not charging a customer correctly. Given the coincidence of her post-pregnancy return, Rifkin can’t help but speculate that she suffered some severe employment discrimination for the side effects of carrying a child.
The problem is that Tennessee has poor employment protection legislation. Although Rifkin does not have plans to sue the company, she said that there will be a permanent rift with her former employer for their poor treatment of her. Needless to say, this is certainly bad press for T-Mobile, and an extensive PR campaign will most likely ensue to save face.