Pregnant T-Mobile Worker Had To 'Clock Out' To Go To Bathroom

Kristi Rifkin, T-Mobile workerKristi Rifkin had been working at T-Mobile Call Center in Nashville for four years when she got pregnant with her third child. She says that she loved her job.

"I had a great run," Rifkin, 40, told ABC News. "I was making bonus. T-Mobile was good to me. I never had a problem getting a schedule I wanted. I enjoyed it. I had even left another company to work at T-Mobile because they had great benefits."
But her good will toward the company changed once she got pregnant. According to Rifkin, the pregnancy -- her second (she has one stepson) -- was a difficult one, and she was going to the doctor twice a week, seeing both a regular obstetrician and a high-risk obstetrician. She was also required to drink "tons and tons" of water –- which, in turn, resulted in frequent trips to the bathroom. This did not sit well with T-Mobile, she said.

"They give you two 15-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch," said Rifkin. "If you can't take care of your biological needs in that time period, you don't go."

Before her pregnancy, this wasn't an issue. But as she explained in a blog post on Moms, frequent jaunts to the bathroom would cut into what was known in the call center world as "adherence" -- a metric that measures the degree to which employees meet their quota for being on the phone.

"You have different numbers you have to meet each month, and if you don't meet them they can fire you," she said. "The thinking is that if you're off the phone and you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing, then there are customers waiting to talk to you."

More: How Employers Get Away With Firing Pregnant Workers -- Legally

She tried to hold off on eating and drinking; she needed the health insurance the job provided. But the baby was suffering, Rifkin said, and she had to start drinking water again.

Finally, she said, her supervisor pulled her aside and told her to get a note from her doctor explaining that she needed to go the bathroom often. "At that point, I thought my head was going to launch off my shoulders," said Rifkin. "'Are you serious? I need to get a note from my doctor to go to the toilet?' This is a basic biological need.' "

But Rifkin did as she was told; she got the doctor's note and cleared it with human resources. She was told that she could use the restroom any time that she needed to, she said, but that she would have to clock out. When she returned from that bathroom, she would have to clock back in. "This meant I was out of work for five minutes," she said. She had to write the hours down and turn it into her supervisor, just to make sure she wasn't taking advantage of the situation.

"I ended up using my vacation time to use the bathroom," she said. But she still wasn't eating and drinking as she was supposed to. Her blood pressure skyrocketed. She was stressed and anxious.

She finally took time off under the Family Medical Leave Act, which requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees, seven weeks before her son, Ian, was born, on May 14, 2010. A month and a half after she returned to work she was fired, she said.

The reason? Rifkin says she was summarily fired after she failed to remove an extra-charge feature from a customer's account, the commission for which was 12 cents. She says the rare error occurred when she either forgot to remove the charge or removed another charge instead. She got no severance, she said, and now pays for medical expenses out of pocket.

More: Employees Tracked With 'Productivity' Sensors

Rifkin said she has no plans to sue the company; it's too expensive, and Tennessee is an at-will employment state. "They can fire you for any reason," she said. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that only eight states require paid rest periods and Tennessee is not among them.

"There is no specific legal requirement that requires employers to let their employees use the restroom," Paula Brantner, the executive director of Workplace Fairness, which provides legal information about workers rights. However, "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."

In an email statement to ABC News, T-Mobile spokesman Glenn A. Zaccara said that he could not comment on a specific individual. But "T-Mobile employees enjoy generous benefits including paid-time-off and short and long-term disability coverage," he said. "The company has leave of absence policies in line with regulatory requirements."

Rifkin was not impressed. "I'm done with T-Mobile," she said. "I don't want anything to do with them anymore."

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YOU HAVE 300 days from the last day of work to file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC, however, your state may require you to file it within 180 days if you want to take advantage of the state's anti-discrimination laws (does Tn. even have them?). This is for federal claims under TItle VII and the pregnancy discrimination act (PDA).

You may have additional time under the provisions of the FMLA's anti-retaliation provisions (which can be as long as 3 years in some circumstances). Contact the National Employment Lawyer's Association (NELA) for a referral to an attorney who focuses his/her practice on employment discrimination. Many (like me) take these cases on a contingent basis at no initial cost to the client (costs and attorneys fees can come out of a settlement or if you win a verdict can be ordered in addition to the verdict which is awarded). Stand up for yourself and others -- assert your rights!

June 03 2013 at 10:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ckevinbaldwin's comment

Unfortunately, I am states away and not licensed to practice in Tenn. -- but there are attorneys qualified to assist you in that state. Also, your case may be litigated by the EEOC once they complete their investigation. Either way, you cannot sue for pregnancy discrimination until you get a "Right to Sue" letter from the EEOC. The anti-discrimination laws require either the state or federal gov. to investigate your claims before you can sue, but you must file the claim with them before 300 days have passed.

June 03 2013 at 10:35 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Nice all of the time gets on my nerves ............................

I have T-Mobile. When my contract runs out that's the end of them.

May 04 2013 at 8:57 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

But the previous story explains how you receive so much in life by being NICE....

May 03 2013 at 4:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Well I guess I will not get T-Mobile, even if they were the only Mobile server around!!!!! OUT

May 03 2013 at 4:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Why does she feel that a for profit business should pay for her down time? She new the rules going in. If she could not perform her job requirement because of medical reasons, she could have gone on disability instead of complaining about a company being unfair. That's what disability was made for and the company helped to pay for.

May 03 2013 at 2:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jsm422's comment

You are a damn IDIOT. No compassion for anyone I am sure.

May 03 2013 at 4:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

That's how it is when women try to "multitask" and do everything. Some of us have to make a choice as to what is most important to us. If becoming a mom is of paramount importance, then maybe a part time job will have to be enough to satisfy the "workaholic" in us. However, if the job is more important, maybe having kids is something we need to forego.

May 03 2013 at 2:17 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to joellen835's comment

She was pregnant and needed healthcare, I am not sure what choice you are referring to, would you suggest she file for public assistance? The job was important for more than one reason, least among them the need to multi-task.

May 03 2013 at 2:26 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Michelle Neff

I would be done with them too hey Verison wants thier Cusotmers and so Does Sprint/Nextell-- so go for it!

May 03 2013 at 1:59 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Jane Marek

The business run America and tell Americans how to live - is this the "freedom" americans brag about?

May 03 2013 at 1:53 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to Jane Marek's comment

I'd file a law suit in a heartbeat! There are plenty of attorney's that take contingency cases and provide a free consultation to review the case prior to accepting it. Plus, T-Mobile will probably offer an 'out of court' settlement.
Just the publicity of T-Mobile's actions will cause a public has with me!
So many corporations have become inhuman. Wonder what they would have done if their family member had this happen to them?
This is discrimination at the highest degree! An unborn child is at risk here. I'd fight them til there was no fight left in me. You have a case.....See an attorney. In Florida every minute counts to get your case filed.

May 03 2013 at 1:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Boycott T-Moble and lets show them who really earns the money!!!!!!!

May 03 2013 at 1:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to rlambert30's comment
Jane Marek

The T-Mobile CEO is the one really earning the money. Americans are too fat and lazy to protest.
They are puppets, this is the great freedom Americans fight so hard for!

May 03 2013 at 1:54 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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