Therapist Says Her Employer Won't Allow Her To Leave The Building For Lunch Or Breaks – 'Is This Normal?'

She thinks it's a clear case of micromanagement.

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Different companies have different policies they implement when it comes to break times. Some are super strict, while others are rather lenient. While it's generally expected that employees should at least get some type of rest break while working full time, one woman who works as a mental health therapist was very shocked to find out that she was not allowed to leave the company premises for lunch or breaks.


The woman's company reportedly forbids employees from leaving the premises during work hours.

In the post she shared on the r/jobs subreddit, the woman said that she wasn’t even allowed to go across the street from her job to get coffee. But the restrictions don’t stop at lunch and breaks. According to the therapist, if a client cancels, giving her a free hour, she still cannot leave the facility.

“Even if all of our work is done and we have no appointments, we can't leave early,” the frustrated woman added.

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She wants to know if keeping employees in the building for their entire shift is normal.

People in the comments were just as annoyed by the workplace policy as the poster was. The first commenter said, “What is the rationale? I've never heard of this. Some places are clock watchers - even salaried. But I've never heard of someone not being able to leave the building.” It could definitely be a case of a micromanager overstepping and making life difficult for employees.

Other readers were certain that the company was violating labor laws by not allowing their employees to take a break wherever they wanted to. If the therapists are in fact employees of the company, this would be a violation of most laws concerning rest breaks for employees. They typically say that workers have to be duty-free and that employers can’t have any control over how they spend their break time.

However, it is not uncommon for mental health workers to be independent contractors, working for themselves and not subject to the same time and labor provisions a regular company employee might be. Contracts for freelance workers differ from company to company, so we would need a lot more context before we could really make a judgment on the validity of this policy.

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Some professions could be exempt from rest break rules.

There are some professions where there might be unique rules that differ greatly from the work rules we are accustomed to. Those are usually in the area of emergency services like police officers, firefighters, dispatchers, emergency medical services, and mental health workers.

Here is a look at why someone in those professions might be required to stay on the premises during their shift.

Law Enforcement Officers have to respond to emergency situations on a daily basis. Those might include situations that are unsafe for the public like a mass shooting or those that are a risk to the police, specifically, such as officer-involved shootings. There might be times when the are required to stay at the station for safety reasons.

Firefighters have been known to work interesting shifts where they are on duty for several days as a time, eating and sleeping at the fire station and making it a second home. They have to be ready and near their firefighting resources when a call comes in.


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Emergency Medical Services workers might be handling back-to-back emergencies with little time in between calls, so might also need to grab a bite of use the bathroom whenever they can. They may not even have time to leave their vehicle or headquarters during downtime.

Mental Health Workers like therapists, psychologists, and counselors might be a surprising addition to the professions needed around the clock, but they shouldn’t be. The mental health crisis has made people who work in the field akin to any and all of the workers listed above. All of these people are priceless and their employers will make it a priority to keep the safe from harm and available to serve those in need.

The point is that it’s hard to judge whether or not the employer’s regulation of where this therapist takes her breaks is on the up and up. Jumping to a conclusion is easy. It’s best to reserve judgement— in most cases— until you know all of the facts and have sufficient context.


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NyRee Ausler is a writer and author from Seattle, Washington. She covers issues navigating the workplace using the experience garnered over two decades of working in Human Resources and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.