T-Mobile employee: I used vacation time to go to the bathroom

A former T-Mobile employee going through a difficult pregnancy says she was told to clock out every time she used the bathroom, as her visits were too frequent.

Unreasonable? T-Mobile/YouTube Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Some stories make you wonder.

Some, however, make your eyeballs cease to move.

This, for example, is the story of a T-Mobile employee who says she was made to clock out to use the bathroom.

Which, to the average objective eye, seems a trifle inhumane.

Kristi Rifkin was employed by T-Mobile in its Nashville, Tenn., call center. It seems that, on the whole, she felt her job was relatively sweet music.

However, things changed when she fell pregnant for the second time.

As ABC News reports, her pregnancy was tough. On the advice of a doctor, she had to drink a lot of water.

There are consequences when you drink a lot of water. They're not enjoyable, but they are inevitable.

As she described in a blog post on MomsRising.org, call center employees are measured by "adherence."

This sticky term is a measure of how long they spend each day on the phone.

Naturally, if she saw to her natural needs a lot during the day, this might cut into her sticky time, which would create a sticky situation.

She wrote: "Essentially the message was, 'You can go, but understand that if you don't meet that metric at the end of the day, week and month, we have the opportunity to fill your seat.'"

She says she tried to not eat and drink. That wasn't exactly easy. She says her boss told her to get a doctor's note.

She explained:

Management reasoned that if I had to log off the phone, it meant one more T-Mobile customer would be stuck in the cue (sic). That meant longer and longer waits for customers to get their issues handled. Or if I was off the phone, I wouldn't be making sales. And that all was inexcusable.

A compromise (of sorts) was reached with her HR department. She says she was told to clock out every time she went to the loo.

But wouldn't the act of clocking out many times a day cut into her adherence? Surely, there were many seconds wasted in constant clocking in and out.

One statement which she offered to ABC News seems so painfully sad that some might wonder about humanity's progress: "I ended up using my vacation time to use the bathroom."

In the end she says she went on FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) -- unpaid medical leave -- in order to ensure a safe birth.

You're waiting for a happy ending, aren't you? I hate to disappoint.

Six weeks after returning to T-Mobile, she says she was fired.

The reason, she claims, is that there was an extra-charge feature on a customer's account that shouldn't have been there. It was allegedly her responsibility. The commission for that charge, she says, was 12 cents.

She got no severance. Tennessee tends not to be a generous state when it comes to the employee side of the labor marriage.

You might be wondering what T-Mobile thinks (officially) about all this. The company issued this fulsome explanation: "T-Mobile employees enjoy generous benefits including paid-time-off and short- and long-term disability coverage. The company has leave of absence policies in line with regulatory requirements."

With spirit undimmed, I contacted T-Mobile again to ask whether the company might choose to add anything to those words, whether there might be a side to this story that hasn't clocked in yet.

A spokesperson from T-Mobile offered me this clarification: "Of course we make reasonable accommodations for all of our employees when they need time away from servicing our customers' needs - and we did that three years ago for this employee as well."

You might imagine that there is nothing more valuable to a call center than a valuable (and happy) employee.

Who counts the cost of replacing that person, training them, and providing work conditions that make for a fair exchange of labor for cash?

Perhaps that's a separate line-item in the budget.

Perhaps that's part of the problem.

If only one person's reasonable was always another's.

Update 3:04 p.m. PT: This story has been updated with additional comments from T-Mobile.

 

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