Can a retail workplace deny employees water?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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