Jim Beam Reverses Controversial Break Policy

Bowing to pressure from employees, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Kentucky Occupational Safety and Health Program, Jim Beam Brands Co. announced that effective immediately, it has voluntarily discontinued a workplace policy limiting breaks for bottling-line workers at its Clermont, Ky., distillery.

"Our former policy was intended only to manage excessive breaks, and we believe it provided appropriate flexibility," said Rich Reese, CEO. "However, we've listened to the concerns of our employees and have changed our policy. We will work with the local union to find a mutually acceptable solution for managing breaks on the bottling-line."

The only Jim Beam workers subject to the former break policy were those on the production line. Out of 150 workers on the line, nearly one-third - 42 employees - were disciplined for taking unscheduled bathroom breaks.

The union argued that before the former policy was instituted, there were mechanisms in place in the workers' contracts to deal with employees who abused break privileges. Despite those mechanisms, the company instituted a policy allowing four breaks per day, only one of which could be an unscheduled break. The company called the policy "fair, reasonable and respectful."

Now, with the most-recent policy change, the company is singing a slightly different tune.

"Jim Beam is proud to continue the 207-year-old tradition of… providing an exceptional work environment for all employees," said Reese.

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