A reader writes:
I work for a retail business based in the deep south, although the store where I am employed is in Washington state.
I was recently informed that NO books or magazines can be left in the employee break area. I was told that our district/regional manager was concerned about exposing younger employees to questionable material.
You must be over 18 to work at our store. The current staff is aged 40 to 60 plus. No minors can work at our store.
The magazines previously left in the break room were women’s general interest such as Family Circle and Woman’s Day. The books left were primarily mysteries featuring women sleuths.
Can an employer restrict what you are allowed to read on your unpaid lunch or break in the employee break area?
This is bizarre.
They can certainly control what’s in the break room, since they own that space. They can say that you can’t leave books, food, plants, mugs, or anything else in there if they decide to; it’s their property.
But as long as you don’t leave your materials in the room, they shouldn’t be able to control what you actually read while you’re on an unpaid break. (Within reason — obviously, if you’re openly reading an X-rated magazine on company property, they can prohibit that.)
In any case, I doubt the concern is Family Circle. I’d bet money that someone left something inappropriate in the break room, and rather than simply dealing with that directly, they chose a blanket ban instead and explained it really ineptly.