Employer raises stink over worker flatulence

HRM 18 Jan 2013

From telling an employee they smell to enforcing the dress code, HR is all about tough conversations. Unfortunately for one American man, a stern conversation wasn’t enough to prevent him being formally warned about his gassy problem.

A Social Security Administration (SSA) employee received a five-page letter addressing the issue, complete with a log of dates and times when he was caught passing wind. No word on who was responsible for keeping track, but it does indicate that his “busiest” day was September 19, with nine incidents recorded between 9.45am and 4.30pm.

The letter accused him of “conduct unbecoming a federal officer,” and claimed he had created an “intolerable” and “hostile” environment for coworkers, several of whom lodged complaints with supervisors. It also outlined conversations he had between May and August 2012 with his supervisor and other managers, one of whom asked him if he could make it to the bathroom before “releasing the awful and unpleasant odour”. The 38-year-old man reportedly told the company he suffered from lactose intolerance and intended to try an over the counter product to fix the problem.

The author of the letter, the man’s module manager, said he didn’t believe a medical condition was causing the problem, specifying “nothing that you have submitted has indicated that you would have uncontrollable flatulence. It is my belief that you can control this condition.”

A SSA “Deputy Division Director” also reportedly told the worker he “could not pass gas indefinitely and continue to disrupt the work place.”

While it’s a funny story for those who aren’t dealing with it, here’s a serious question: as HR professionals, what would you do about this situation?


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Commented by: bramhani at 18 Jan 2013 05:07 AM Report this comment
It is recommended that the man be checked medically for flatulence for confirmation. In case he is right, HR must give him some time to get cured. In case he is lying then an in-depth conversation with him and a support must be extended to help him cope with the problem.

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