It’s been a long while since this blog went into the toilet. But in this Employment Law Checklist Project, there are two employment laws we need to tackle together that highlight the very specific nature of some laws and how they remain on the books.
Yes, I’m talking about the two employment laws that require toilets in two industries.
The first of these is Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-36. It provides that:
The commissioner shall have authority by order to that effect to require the proprietor of any foundry in which ten or more persons are employed, situated in a locality where there is such system for the disposal of sewage as to make such order practicable, to provide for the use of such employees a toilet room of such suitable dimensions as said commissioner determines, containing washbowls or sinks connected with running water, with facilities for heating the same, such room to be directly connected with such foundry building, properly heated, ventilated and protected from the dust of such foundry. Any person, company or corporation failing to comply with such order shall be fined not more than fifty dollars.
Not to be outdone, Conn. Gen. Stat. Sec. 31-38 provides:
Any person, firm or corporation employing twenty-five or more laborers on a tobacco plantation, which fails to provide adequate toilet accommodations for such employees, so arranged as to secure reasonable privacy for both sexes of such employees, shall be fined not less than twenty dollars nor more than one hundred dollars.
Let’s dig deeper into each of them to add to our checklist.
Scope: Foundries with ten or more employees that are situated in localities where it’s practical to have a toilet room. And employers that have 25 or more workers on a “tobacco plantation”.
Um, what’s a foundry? Glad you asked! A foundry is basically a workshop or factory for casting metal.
And do we still have “plantations” in Connecticut? Well, that’s a bit of a question mark. Connecticut’s tobacco industry has definitely shrunk over the past years. It’s just a tenth of the size it was a century ago with just 2000 acres being farmed today. None of them are called “plantations” and none seem to have resident labor of 25 or more employees.
What’s Prohibited or Required? For foundries, the DOL Commissioner has the authority to order a foundry owner to provide a toilet room. No regulations have been promulgated on this. And if there is such an order, I haven’t found it nor has Google. More on what this means, in a minute. If you are a covered tobacco employer (anyone? anyone?), you have to provide “adequate toilet accommodations”. What’s adequate? Your guess is as good as mine but probably one of these examples.
Private Right of Action or Other Penalty Allowed? No private right of action by an individual is established. For foundries, if the CTDOL orders you to provide a toilet room AND you fail to comply, you could be fined $50. For companies running “tobacco plantations”, the CTDOL can presumably fine the companies between $20-100. (The law was passed in 1949 where $20 is the equivalent today of $215 and $100 is the equivalent of $1078, in case you’re curious.)
What May Be Recovered? Likely only the fines that may be imposed by the Department of Labor. And only for those covered “tobacco plantations”.
Any Practical Steps Employers Can Take? For 99.9 percent of employers in Connecticut, these laws don’t apply to you. And for foundries, you have to be ordered by the DOL first before the requirements kick in. But practically speaking, I think we can all agree that it’s preferable to have toilets for your employees.
Any Other Interesting Information or Background? Why just foundries and tobacco plantations, you ask? Well, as it turns out, Sec. 31-37 used to cover “manufacturing, mechanical and mercantile establishments and restaurants” but that law has long since been repealed.
Ultimately, these laws fall within the sphere of laws that have seem to have long outlived their particular usefulness or utility and yet employers who technically want to comply with each and every law out there, need to be aware of.
And for those that argue that we should have a law requiring toilets, I merely ask — Sure, but why just foundries or tobacco plantations?