Too many breaks? Woman With IBS Struggles With Employer

BALLANTYNE, NC (FOX 46) – A local customer service rep says she is frustrated with the company she works for after management has asked her to come to work early, to make up for what they believe is lost time from excessive breaks.

The woman says she has a chronic illness that causes her to use the bathroom more than one to two break times allowed during the day.

FOX 46 Charlotte reached out to an employment lawyer who says there is a law that states if a break is 20 minutes or less, most employers are required to count those as paid hours worked.

The woman FOX 46 Charlotte spoke with says that is not what’s happening at her company. Brenna Kolumba has struggled with irritable bowl syndrome or IBS for years. “It’s difficult at times. It’s known. I have to be near a restroom at a moment’s notice,” Kolumba explained.

She’s never felt it interfered with her career until now. “I love my job and I love my company as a whole. I just never have ran into an issue like before,” she said. Kolumba is a customer service rep at Bae Systems in Ballantyne. She said after a recent promotion, management has had problems with her bathroom breaks.

“They state I should only go during my regulated break times and anything above and beyond that I have to come in to work early or stay late,” Kolumba said.

She claims they even said PTO could be docked. So Kolumba went to HR.

“They told me to file a report to get an accommodation, but they kept my report and sat me down and explained my only options were use PTO or makeup that time,” she said. “Generally speaking, if a break is less than 20 minutes, or like bathroom breaks, that is compensable time. You should be paid for that time.”

Employment lawyer Kevin Murphy says IBS falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Meaning, employers need to try their best to make accommodations. “Employees should also be flexible and bring creative ideas about how to get around broad based rules,” Murphy said.

Kolumba says management at BAE Systems hasn’t budged on offering more 10 minute breaks, even with a doctor’s note. “I just don’t want to be in fear for being penalized because of this or in hear of losing my job because of this,” she said.

FOX 46 Charlotte reached out to BAE Systems Corporate Office for their side of the story.

Statement from BAE Systems:

“BAE Systems values all our employees and is committed to treating each and every one fairly and with respect. It is our company’s policy not to publicly discuss personnel matters of individual employees.”