A Wendy’s restaurant employee in Southern California has filed a claim as a precursor to a lawsuit against the restaurant franchise, claiming her managers implemented a “no bathroom breaks” policy during the lunch rush, aggravating a medical condition.
In her claim, the woman, Maria Rivas, says she was denied access to the bathroom at a Wendy's in Sanee between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. in October 2014. Rivas — who is on medication that makes bladder control difficult — she repeatedly asked her supervisor to leave her work station to use the restroom, but was told she could not.
Rivas said she accidentally urinated on herself and the supervisor forced her to work in soiled clothes for the remainder of her shift, despite potential health code concerns.
In Spanish, Rivas told NBC 7: “He didn’t care and none of the other managers cared to tell me, ‘Mari, go to your house and change.’”
Rivas said her medical problems — diabetes, high cholesterol and thyroid disorder — make frequent bathroom breaks necessary.
Reached for comment, the Wendy’s manager told NBC 7 he was unable to speak on camera, but confirmed a written version of events that he drafted for the restaurant’s attorneys.
In it, he stated that Wendy’s policy is that no one can move from their positions unless an operation leader approves it during the three-hour lunch rush.
In the email, the manager wrote he was unaware of Rivas’ accident until she told him about it at the end of her shift.
NBC 7 also reached out to Wendy’s corporate offices and the HR director sent a statement, and said because it was a personnel matter, the company couldn’t comment on the specifics.
“This is an isolated situation involving one employee at one restaurant,” said Donna Townsend “Our franchise strives to provide a positive working environment for all employees. We promptly investigated complaints arising out of this situation and believe that is was handled appropriately. When an employee request to go to the bathroom, permission is granted, as it is here.”
Rivas’ attorney has filed a claim to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleging that the restaurant denied Rivas a reasonable accommodation for her medical condition.
The attorney told NBC 7 that Wendy’s has offered several settlement offers, but Rivas has refused the offers because they were not satisfactory amounts. She remains employed at the restaurant.
Asked why she couldn’t just go to the bathroom anyway or quit, Rivas said she simply cannot afford to be fired or unemployed.
“I depend on this job,” she said. “I don’t have another one.”
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Patrick Dodger Paschall has been a practicing attorney since 2009.