November 26, 2019

Harris, Colleagues Introduce New Legislation to Protect Workers, Ensure Dignity in The Workplace

Legislation Would Ensure Workers Receive Breaks To Eat Meals, Use The Restroom

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) joined Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) in introducing the Treating Workers With Dignity Act, new legislation that would guarantee employees receive a break to eat a meal, use the restroom, or tend to their medical needs.

“It is time we raise the bar for every worker in our country, and guarantee the right to take rest and meal breaks for all working people,” said Senator Harris. “I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce this important legislation which will take steps to ensure working people receive the dignity and respect they deserve.”

Along with Harris and Schatz, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Under current federal law, employers in the United States have no legal obligation to provide workers a break in order to eat a meal, use the restroom, or tend to their medical needs. As a result, some employers have taken advantage of the absence of these protections by showing little regard their workers. For example, separate reports by the Government Accountability Office and Oxfam America found that employees in the poultry industry routinely are denied bathroom breaks, forcing many to defecate on themselves or wear adult diapers rather than lose their jobs.

The Treating Workers with Dignity Act would provide employees the opportunity to attend to their basic needs during the course of their workday. This legislation would:

  • Require employers to provide employees the option for an uninterrupted 30-minute break in which an employee can eat, for any shift lasting at least six hours.
  • Allow employees to take short, paid breaks to tend to a documented medical condition.
  • Ensure employers provide their employees the opportunity to take a paid restroom break at least once every four hours that they work.

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