When An Employer is Forced to Backtrack on Flatulence
This was in the news a couple weeks ago, but I just have not had time to get to it. I probably should just let it go, but ultimately, in the end I couldn’t let this pass. I tried to hold it in, but I can’t. I am just going to have to let one rip, so here goes:
The Social Security Administration has backtracked after they officially reprimanded an employee for continuously “passing gas and releasing an unpleasant odor”. The SSA did this because the continued release of malodorous effluvium apparently created a “hostile work environment.” The story quickly went viral, and due to the building pressure of negative publicity the agency has now rescinded its official reprimand.
I suppose that leaves all involved “up in the air”, for lack of a better phrase.
It seems the man’s co-workers in the Office of Disability Operations raised a stink about this guy. The agency allegedly logged “60 documented instances of the worker passing gas in his office during a period of about 12 weeks”. How would you like to be the guy who had to track that?
And you thought your job stunk. That would be one to show off at your kid’s school during Career Day. “My Daddy is a Fart counter.”
No, wait. This is a government job, so your daughter would have to say, “My Daddy is a GAS PASSER. That is a Gastrointestinal Analyzing Specialist. His job is to Process Anomalous Sounds Specifically Exceeding Regulations. And he makes $180,000 a year. And will retire with full benefits when he is 49.”
But I digress.
The agency had apparently been addressing this issue for months, and the worker appears to have tried to take some actions to remedy the situation. He agreed to take GasX, and offered to turn on a fan in his cubicle every time he passed gas, which, if log files are to be believed, could be up to 9 times a day. The fan idea was rejected by management, as it was determined that would only expedite the odiferous dispensation throughout the work area.
At one point he seems to have searched for some type of accommodation, as he provided the agency with proof of medical conditions that might occasionally keep him from working full time, but the disability operations manager would have none of that. His response to that was “… nothing that you have submitted has indicated you would have uncontrollable flatulence. It is my belief that you can control this condition.”
It sounds to me like everything he's "submitted" has indicated he has uncontrollable flatulence. But what do I know?
There is some irony in there somewhere, when an exceedingly flatulent worker in the Office of Disability Operations can’t get his disability recognized. Nonetheless, on December 10, 2012 he was formally reprimanded for excessive flatulence in the workplace.
After the website Smoking Gun first gave this story air by posting the reprimand letter online, it was, as I earlier indicated, withdrawn. The SSA says this was after senior officials in the agency learned of it.
There is a lesson here. It seems that when an employer is forced to backtrack on flatulence, it might be because the original offender wasn’t the only one that raised a stink.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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