Macca’s franchisee fined $82k over toilet break ‘cruelty’

A McDonald's Queensland franchisee that suggested it could stop staff using the toilet or drinking water outside scheduled breaks has been ordered to pay penalties totalling $82,000. Tantex Holdings, which runs six Queensland restaurants, has to pay the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union $72,000 and former Brisbane crew member Chiara Staines $10,000.

In September, Federal Court Justice John Logan found the right to access the toilet or a drink of water was a workplace right.

A general manager of a McDonald's franchisee, Tantex Holdings, had made a Facebook post telling a group of crew members the company was not obliged to let them go to the toilet outside scheduled breaks.

In January, last year, Tantex general manager Christopher Crenicean wrote the post to a Facebook group for the McDonald's Windsor West store.

"What this means is that if we implement this over our current situation, on your shift - this 10 minute break would be the only time you would ever be permitted to have a drink or go to the toilet.

"So I hope to god you don't get thirsty on your next shift because we just wouldn't be able to allow a drink. Fair is Fair right?"

Justice John Logan. Picture: Darren England
Justice John Logan. Picture: Darren England

Justice Logan said the threat made by Mr Crenicean was "a sinister one''.

"There is a quality of cruelty to workers about it,'' he said.

Justice Logan found workers were entitled to use the bathroom when reasonable outside of their paid 10-minute breaks.

After the retail union took a case to the Federal Court, in September Justice Logan ruled that Tantex was guilty of several contraventions of the Fair Work Act.

Justice Logan found Tantex had failed to provide Ms Staines with 10-minute paid drink breaks.

He also found the franchisee had recklessly made false representations about the rights of employees at its McDonald's Central Station restaurant in Ann St, Brisbane.

It also threatened to deny Windsor West McDonald's employees access to the toilet and the right to drink water outside their 10-minute paid breaks.

Justice Logan said no employer before Tantex had submitted to an Australian court that a worker had no right to leave the work floor to go to the toilet or have a drink of water.

He said many of the Tantex McDonald's workforce were adolescent students and for many it was their first paid employment.

Tantex apologised to its employees and the court for the contraventions and paid Ms Staines $1000, after a court order.

Justice Logan on Friday ordered Ms Staines be paid $10,000 by Tantex.

Justice Logan praised the union for its "service to the national interest'' for bringing the court case.

Josh Cullinan, Secretary of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, said it was delighted with the court outcome.

"Of course, we should never have had to defend the most basic workplace rights of our members - to have their paid breaks, to be able to drink water, and to be able to go to the toilet,'' Mr Cullinan said.

"The outrageous coercion of children by this employer - which continues to employ hundreds of children and young workers - was absolutely unlawful and it must now pay the penalties imposed on it.''

Shine Lawyers is pursuing legal action on behalf of McDonald's employees over alleged failures to provide paid rest breaks.

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