Some people have jobs that stink, while others have a job that, well, really stinks. And the resulting lawsuit form a truly stinky job is another warning for employers everywhere.
A Melbourne, Australia engineer is claiming his supervisor bullied him by repeatedly farting on him as well as “thrusting his bum” at him on numerous occasions. His $1.8 million-dollar lawsuit has thus far been unsuccessful, but he has appealed the decision over this unappealing case. The Appeals Court has heard the arguments and will pass a decision later this week (usually one would say “render a decision” or “issue a decision,” but in this case, “pass” seemed far more appropriate for some reason).
In his appeal he claimed that “flatulence was a form of bullying” and labeled his former colleague as a serial farter.
I wonder if serial farters have to register with their local police department, like sex offenders must.
The man, who worked as a structural engineer, told media after the hearing, “I would be sitting with my face to the wall and he would come into the room, which was small and had no windows. He would fart behind me and walk away. He would do this five or six times a day.”
He told the court that his supervisor also abused him over the phone, would taunt him with gestures, and “He thrusted his bum at me while he's at work.”
I'm not really sure where to start here. I suppose I should mention that back in 2012 I wrote about Australia's proposal to expand their anti-bullying legislation. Those proposals at the time would have allowed employees left with too little to do file harassment and bullying charges against their employer. I'm not sure that excessive farting was included in that reform, but it only seems a natural progression.
Perhaps the man should not have been sitting with his “face to the wall.” First off, that sounds like a very uncomfortable way to work, even for a structural engineer. If he was testing the lateral strength of the wall that might make it more understandable. If he was just sleeping or daydreaming that could cause a problem. Irritated co-workers might swing by to fart in his tiny office if they thought he was just goofing off.
As for the man's bum thrusting allegations, we must admit it is a tad unusual. I am not sure how many companies specifically prohibit bum thrusting in the workplace. Heck, I'm not even sure I could thrust my bum without throwing out my back. A review of my company's employment manual reveals that bum thrusting, or in more formal terms, the thrusting of one's bum, is not listed as verboten here in my office.
I'll need to get on that before any bum thrusting trend takes hold. The people around here are an impressionable lot, and a few of us have a lot more bum than others. I don't want this seen as a discriminatory policy, what with some being able to thrust more weight around than their less bum-fortified co-workers.
As for the man's appeal of his $1.8 million-dollar lawsuit, things did not go as smoothly as he had hoped. It seems he represented himself throughout the trial and appeal, and he does not believe he got a fair trial on the first go-round. He told the justices he felt under pressure from trial court Justice Rita Zammit when questioning witnesses, and thought the judge was biased against him.
Plus, she kept telling him to pull her finger, and we all know that didn't end well.
The appeals court judges pointed out that he had called his colleague “Mr Stinky” from time to time, and one justice, Justice Phillip Priest, noted that, “you sprayed deodorant at him.”
Sounds like more like Animal House than a regular office.
Justice Priest (not to be confused with the band Judas Priest) said farts were not the key issue in the original claim, as it had focused more on the phone calls. The plaintiff countered that the flatulence had caused him “severe stress” and should still be taken into account, as it had been part of a larger conspiracy to get rid of him and caused him psychiatric injuries.
The Court of Appeal judges will deliver their ruling on the appeal on Friday.
In the meantime, employers everywhere are dusting off their manuals to review policies related to flatulence and bum thrusting. A word of caution on this, as in 2013 the Social Security Administration was forced to rescind a letter of reprimand it had issued to an employee for excessive flatulence. It seems the overly flatulent have some potential protections here in the US under the ADA. Employers would be best off concentrating on banning bum thrusting or any unusual gyrations of the buttockal region. Don't spend too much time on the flatulence.
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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