Spanish company probed for making women wear toilet sign

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Employment inspectors are probing a Spanish fruit company for allegedly requiring its female staff to wear a sign around their necks that said "toilet" to go to the bathroom, a union said Wednesday.

The UGT union filed a complaint against El Ciruelo de Murcia, which employs 400 women, after receiving complaints from several employees of the company about the practice, union representative Encarna Perez said.

Company bosses required the women to wear the red sign somewhere "visible" when on a bathroom break, she said.

"They were not allowed to carry the sign in their hands or their pockets, and if they put a string on it and you have to wear it somewhere visible, where else are you going to put it, if not around your neck?," Perez added.

Many women drank less water despite the heat and their long work hours to avoid having to go to the bathroom and suffer this "violation of their privacy", she said.

"The men were not required to carry any sign," said Perez.

The rule was put in place in May but was dropped in August following an inspection by employment inspectors.

The director of the labour ministry's employment inspection division in the eastern region of Murcia, Jose Fuentes, said the union complaint was being investigated.

"We cannot reach any conclusions until the investigation is completed," he said.

Contacted by AFP, the company -- which has businesses in the towns of Cieza and Alhama de Murcia -- refused to comment.

The union also complained that workers at the company were required to work shifts of up to 15 hours with only a half hour break.

Four employees were fired because the company suspects they were the ones who reported the abuses to the union, said Perez.

© 2011 AFP

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