Must restroom facilities be provided to an employee/independent contractor?

I work as a security guard as a contractor to an employer. The building has bathrooms. But when I go outside for 12 hours – I have no bathroom. I was told by my boss to go to the bathroom in the woods. Is this legal?

Asked on September 6, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Two different issues.

Can a business refuse to allow independent contractors--or, for that matter, employees--to use restrooms? Yes. It may be a stupid policy, but it's legal, especially if what they're  doing is preventing people for work for the business as a whole from going and using restrooms which are in the premises of specific tenants; or preventing people from using bathrooms in secure areas; or not opening up a building which is supposed to locked overnight or on the weekend to outside workers; etc.

Is it legal to go to the bathroom in the woods? It depends on who owns that land, what the neighbors are and how close they are, local ordinances, etc. It could easily be that no, in this case, going to the bathroom in the woods is illegal (e.g. exposing oneself in public). It may be the case that the employer needs  to provide bathroom facilities (e.g. port-a-potties) or else allow staff to go off premises periodically (e.g. one bathroom break every 2 - 3 hours) to use facilites at rest stops or fast food restaurants.


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