The workplace has of many problems and challenges. Often management is the cause, other times, the issues are caused by other employees. They may have engaged in offensive behavior, some of which may be illegal. As difficult as it may be to endure, with sexual harassment or discriminatory conduct, the response is clear. While the facts of every case are different, cases of blatant harassment or discrimination generate a known response.
Many situations, however, the response can be less obvious. The solution may not be as straightforward as the illegal conduct prohibited the various federal discrimination laws, like Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Rehabilitation Act.
According the Washington Post, an employee in the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office of Disability Operation in Baltimore, has caused concerns for his coworkers. His behavior was described as creating an “‘intolerable’ and ‘hostile environment’ for coworkers.”
What behavior created this hostile work environment? Viewing pornography on his computer? Insensitive religious comments offending coworkers? No, it was his “uncontrollable flatulence.”
He was formally reprimanded by the Social Security Administration for excessive workplace flatulence. While this may seem a funny and embarrassing story, the workers who complained provided an example of the type of documentation that is necessary for employment law matters.
While workers could have merely made anecdotal statements, stating he produced offensive odors frequently, the formal reprimand lists 60 dates and times when he passed gas. This level of documentation reduces the chance that someone is “making things up” or it is something that only occurred once or twice.
SSA has since revoked the reprimand, but neither SSA nor his union responded to questions regarding the withdrawal of the reprimand.
Source: The Washington Post, “Social Security Administration takes back reprimand of flatulent worker,” Josh Hicks, January 10, 2013