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Gas attack: employer raises stink over worker flatulence

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HC Online | 11 Jan 2013, 12:00 AM Agree 0
A US employer formally reprimanded an employee for “uncontrollable flatulence” after coworkers complained.
  • John | 11 Jan 2013, 02:26 PM Agree 0
    Would 'firing' him send the whole place up in flames?
  • Chris Walter | 11 Jan 2013, 02:30 PM Agree 0
    Why is this a HR issue? And why are difficult conversations constrained to HR, also?

    This is clearly a local leadership issue.

    I wonder if the logged activities came from his supervisor in order to duck-shove the issue 'up the chain' thus abbrogating one of their responsibilities to correct undesirable workplace behaviours.

    I honestly feel for HR types burdened with this type of increasing nonsense.

    HR's job is not being a dumping ground for 'too hard' or uncomfortable human relationship issues, or their direct resolution.

    Their job is not putting out frontline spotfires, but providing advice to the frontline and their management on best practice.
  • Maria Crabb | 11 Jan 2013, 03:21 PM Agree 0
    A very tricky situation which needs to be handled carefully. Education in my view is always the best starting place. Also good to link it to your organisations values i.e. the behaviour is not in line with teamwork or respect.
  • Howard Whitton | 11 Jan 2013, 05:19 PM Agree 0
    What puzzles me is why these examples are regarded as 'difficult conversations' for HR professionals. One reason suggests itself: based on my 20 yrs experience in HR, any such 'difficulty' comes from the lack of clear policy on the part of the employer, leaving the HR professional to make it up as they go along... Not too hard to fix, this.
  • Robin Pollock | 13 Jan 2013, 04:48 PM Agree 0
    I would treat it the same way as smelly feet, bad BO (lack of bathing) and talk to the employee about cause. We pass what we eat and many foods cause a lot of fratulance, others far less. We all fart but majority of us control it and would be far too embarrassed to do it, particularly a smelly one, in public. Such an employee as this US example probably needs the help of a dietican and possibly could have a weight problem also. Helping the employee to see he may need to review and change his diet is not that hard. Even offering for employer to assist with this can help.
    Being sensitive to the embarrassment caused by such a discussion should be front of mind for HR dealing with such an issue.
  • Mark | 14 Jan 2013, 10:34 AM Agree 0
    It is odd that a line manager thinks he is in a position to diagnose medical conditions or the absence thereof. Issues are being confused. Flatulence is the issue, not whether he can control it or not. They were right in saying he “could not pass gas indefinitely and continue to disrupt the work place.” It is irrelevant if he can or can not control the issue. The disruption to the workplace is the issue. If it turns out that he has a disability/medical condition then the employer must make reasonable adjustment. Eg. single office or away from other workers if possible. If this isn't practical/reasonable then I would expect that he would have to go.
  • Kirsten | 22 Jan 2013, 12:15 PM Agree 0
    As is the case with most employee issues, the direct manager has the relationship and therefore is in the best position to discuss it directly with the employee. This is a manager's job. HR's job is to advise/coach managers to help them effectively manage situations with their people - not to do it for them.
  • Nicole | 14 Dec 2013, 08:21 AM Agree 0
    I recommend the HR pro have this conversation for two reasons. Having the conversation with someone the employee does not have to face at work every day is less humiliating to the employee. The second reason has to do with ADA. Since this is a conversation where disability information may be disclosed, it would be better handled by HR rather than the supervisor.
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