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I have a coworker who is known - behind his back - for taking excessively long in the bathroom. It's not unusual for our department to have to delay a meeting 10, 20, even 30 minutes waiting for him to return from the bathroom. He hasn't mentioned any health issues that would cause this. He claims that it simply takes him that long - he's not staring at his phone or reading a magazine or somesuch. He seems convinced that there's nothing out of the ordinary. Yet he regularly takes 30-45 minutes in the bathroom at a time.

Now, I know everyone uses the restroom a little differently. Some people wipe standing, others wipe sitting, et cetera. But the rest of our department agrees that the amount of time he spends is excessive.

So I have two related questions:

  1. Is it within the range of normal for someone to regularly take upwards of half an hour or more in the bathroom, without a distraction being the cause?
  2. Is there/are there digestive health problem(s) which my coworker may have that could cause this, which he might not be aware of?

I guess the real question I'm trying to get an answer to is, is my coworker suffering from some health condition that he might not know about?

  • 2
    Some people actually install phones in their bathrooms. I'm very sure (without citing a study) that use of portable electronic devices has increased bathroom usage time. I'm not sure if the question as asked is on topic. – anongoodnurse Sep 15 '15 at 21:20
  • @anongoodnurse The question is asking about GI-tract health, not phone usage. – Martin Carney Sep 15 '15 at 23:14
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You didn't say which country you work in, so let's take the US as an example:

  1. Do I have a right to have my medical information kept private in the workplace?

Your employer has a number of ways to obtain medical information about you, whether it's because you volunteer it when you call in sick or tell co-workers, or because you provide requested information on health insurance application or workers compensation claim forms. However, just because your employer has the information does not mean that it should be shared with everyone in the workplace, especially when you have not chosen to do so.

The basic legal principle that employers should follow is not to reveal medical information about you unless there is a legitimate business reason to do so. But because that standard is fairly vague, there are laws which more specifically protect the privacy of your medical records, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the law which makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of an employee's disability. State laws may also provide additional protection.

From: Workplace Fairness (emphasis mine)

If you would like more reliable resources, I recommend the documents that WF refers to:

  1. http://www.ada.gov/pubs/adastatute08.htm
  2. http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/index.html

Or if you would prefer the European approach:

  1. Member States shall prohibit the processing of personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade-union membership, and the processing of data concerning health or sex life.

From: Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data (Article 8(1), emphasis mine)

Hence, the bottom line is that it is utterly irrelevant whether your coworker does or does not have an underlying medical condition that you don't know about, because people have the right to health information privacy worldwide. In other words: your coworker's potential medical condition is none of your business.

The right to privacy has been around for a while and as such should be understandable to any civilized human being. To be consistent with meeting health SE's reference requirements:

Privacy addresses the question of who has access to personal information and under what conditions. [...]

There are a variety of reasons for placing a high value on protecting the privacy, confidentiality, and security of health information (reviewed by Pritts, 2008). Some theorists depict privacy as a basic human good or right with intrinsic value (Fried, 1968; Moore, 2005; NRC, 2007a; Terry and Francis, 2007). They see privacy as being objectively valuable in itself, as an essential component of human well-being. They believe that respecting privacy (and autonomy) is a form of recognition of the attributes that give humans their moral uniqueness.

The more common view is that privacy is valuable because it facilitates or promotes other fundamental values, including ideals of personhood (Bloustein, 1967; Gavison, 1980; Post, 2001; Solove, 2006; Taylor, 1989; Westin, 1966) such as:

  • Personal autonomy (the ability to make personal decisions)
  • Individuality
  • Respect
  • Dignity and worth as human beings

From: Beyond the HIPAA Privacy Rule: Enhancing Privacy, Improving Health Through Research..

Although the linked text refers to privacy of information of health research participants, the introductory part (Definitions, Importance of Privacy) is about the general principle.

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