Can a retail workplace deny employees water?

My girlfriend works at a large chain grocery store, and the managers prohibit the employees from having bottles of water out while on duty. I understand that water can be prohibited near the

computer equipment and registers, and that they can restrict consumption at the work areas to maintain a professional appearance, but in that case do they have the right to deny the workers, at any time, access to a potable water source such as a break room or kitchen? This is especially

important for my girlfriend as she is pregnant.

Asked on December 14, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, an employer *may* restrict employee ability to leave their station or floor and go to a break room or kitchen for a drink, as well as their right to carry water bottles with them: there is simply no general right to hydrate at will at work.
However, employers do need to provide "reasonable accommodations" to documented/proven employee medical conditions, which includes pregnancy. A "reasonable accommodation is a change in rules which is not too disruptive or expensive for the employer. If your girlfriend gets a doctor's note that she has to have access to water more frequently, the employer should have to honor it and allow her either more frequent water breaks or let her carry her water bottle.


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