Employment Law Questions? Ask an Employment Lawyer.
I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear about your situation.
Minnesota law requires employers to give employees a break to use the "nearest convenient restroom" once every four hours. Minn. Stat., Section 177.253. Violation of this statute is a misdemeanor. See Section 177.32. They also must give a meal break when an employee works 8 hours or longer in a shift. Section 177.254. A meal break must be 20 minutes or longer and does not have to be paid. Restroom breaks of less than 20 minutes must be paid. It's up to the employer to provide a restroom that can be reached within that amount of time.
The state allows employees who are concerned about retaliation to file anonymous complaints with the Department of Labor, however, it is also a crime to fire or take negative action against an employee for exercising their legal rights. He'd be allowed to sue for reinstatement, back pay, attorney's fees, and punitive damages.
20 minutes is the federal minimum for a meal period, but in Minnesota, an employer must show special circumstances to give a meal break of less than 30 minutes. Minn. Rules, 5200.0120.
I found a similar case with an employee who was technically "allowed" to use the restroom, but employer restrictions made it impossible. The employer was found to be in violation of the law. Looking at that might help.
Your husband can file a lawsuit if he'd prefer to go through the courts instead of the Labor Department. In court, he'd be able to request damages, plus reimbursement of his attorney's fees. A good place to find a local attorney who can help is www.martindale.com.
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