Flatulence Creates A Hostile Work Environment

by admin on January 14, 2013

 

In the news recently was a story regarding a Social Security Administration employee whose flatulence has, apparently, made his co-workers beyond mad. Supervisors cited him for creating a hostile work environment! The charges were later withdrawn after the reprimand letter went public on the Internet.
Reading the reprimand letter is quite interesting in that the dates and exact times the employee let loose with some olfactory offensiveness is recorded.   In order to reprimand, discipline or fire a US federal employee, there must be a plethora of documented evidence to substantiate the offenses and even then it is  nigh on impossible to actually remove them from their position or fire them.   This explains the detailed recording of every instance of flatulence this employee inflicted on his co-workers.   Someone had to have been pretty peeved to have spent the time documenting the incidents so as to provide a substantive platform for disciplining him.
Of course, all that work was for naught because Administration officials withdrew the reprimand when it went viral.   Mr. Rooting and Tooting is now free to can continue to affect the air quality in the workplace unimpeded despite knowing his co-workers and bosses find his flatulence to be quite rude.

 

{ 63 comments… read them below or add one }

Carol January 14, 2013 at 9:56 am

I’m going to have to disagree with the tone of this post. It’s clear from the news articles that the gentleman in question has medical issues contributing to his flatulence and took steps to minimize its effects on his co-workers, including taking medication and using a fan to diffuse the odor. Saying that, “Mr. Rooting and Tooting is now free to can continue to affect the air quality in the workplace unimpeded despite knowing his co-workers and bosses find his flatulence to be quite rude” is, to me, awfully mean-spirited.

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admin January 14, 2013 at 11:04 am

Your knee jerk sympathy is out of sync with the facts contained within the reprimand letter. The employee was informed of the problem in May, had a follow up meeting 2 months later in July, then another in August and finally culminating in the reprimand letter in late November. That’s at least six months for the employee to have seen a doctor and medically address the problem. The information in the letter only states the employee’s *intention* to see a doctor, there is no evidence he did since the employee did not provide any medical explanation from his doctor. Further, there is documentation of a specific event on September 7, 2012 “and the days that followed” which was described as “discourteous, disrespectful, entirely inappropriate and unprofessional”.

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Virg January 14, 2013 at 10:43 am

Having seen myself what some people will do to document perceived offenses, I’m not inclined to say that the fact that someone did document his flatulence is any good indicator of how peeved the office staff as a whole is. The simple problem here is that there’s a fine line between medical condition and purposeful annoyance and there’s nothing in the story that indicates firmly that he’s doing it with malice or glee, and so I’m left to wonder how much effort his supervisors really made to deal with the issue. Telling him to go to a doctor is a fine first step, but he said that he’d seen a doctor and on top of that, I’m left to wonder where his supervisor got the medical expertise necessary to make the statement, “It is my belief that you can control this condition.” Did anyone recommend solutions that would have a real effect on the problem without forcing this guy to take on more of the load than is reasonable? Did they try to deal with this by putting him in an enclosed office or getting him an air purifier to put nearby or anything other than saying “it’s your problem”? I think that fact that they backed off it “tout suite” (pun fully intended) is an indication that they didn’t do enough in the first place, and that’s too bad because it took me all of two minutes to come up with the two possibilities suggested above.

Virg

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Ergala January 14, 2013 at 10:59 am

I read the article and the letter. In both the employee had said he was seeking medical help for his issue and each time his bosses said that they said that he could control it, even though it appears his doctor said he could not. As someone who has had stomach issues that can be triggered by anything I feel bad for the guy. It can cause a lot of pain to hold it in, and if it comes out anyways the smell could be even worse from being retained. I feel bad for the guy, it had to be humiliating. It even looked like he tried to get days off when he knew it was going to be bad.

“The worker provided the agency with proof of medical conditions that could prevent him from working full days at times, but the disability operations manager said: “… nothing that you have submitted has indicated you would have uncontrollable flatulence. It is my belief that you can control this condition.” ”

He made an effort and they shut him down saying he could control it. Like I said, I feel bad for him.

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Mechtilde January 14, 2013 at 11:04 am

For many people, flatulance is something over which they have little or no control. It can be painful, and embarassing.

Doing it deliberately would be rude, but some people just can’t help it.

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Rug Pilot January 14, 2013 at 11:08 am

All odors are particulate, said one chemist I used to work with. Inhaling someone else’s waste is unhealthy. This employee could be considered disabled if he is doing what he can to control the outbursts, but the employer is only required to make a reasonable accomodation for him. It sounds like he belongs in an enclosed office rather than a cubicle.

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Denise January 14, 2013 at 11:22 am

It sounds as though the office staff surrounding him should spend more time doing their work and doing what they can to minimize the odor around them and less time keeping accurate records of when flatuelence occurred in the office. I would love to know of they made each documentation based on smell, sound or both.

He informed his employer that he suffered from medical conditions, his employer made the assumption those conditions not only could not cause flatuelence but also would be cured with medication within a few months. We are also assuming that he did not go to the doctor for this issue rather than not disclose the findings to protect his own privacy.

I have a family member with a GI disease that causes him to have terrible flatuelence. It smells terrible, embarrasses him and comes when he doesn’t expect it and we are all stuck in a small area at times. He has tried countless medications over th decades to no avail.

I find the problem here to be a man who may have a medical condition being harassed and an office filled with people lacking compassion, empathy and the ability to problem solve.

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Wendy B. January 14, 2013 at 11:28 am

I’m going to agree with Carol only in that we’re only getting the SSA’s side of the story.
Having said that…
My husband is lactose intolerant. When he’s had too much dairy, he gets stomach cramps and really bad gas. Gas X doesn’t control it (although it can help relieve the cramps), he needs Lactaid or a similar drug, but that can get quite expensive, so he avoids dairy as much as possible (up to and including cheese-less pizza).

While I think the man being reprimanded wasn’t being helpful for his coworkers’ sake, it also seems strange to me that someone took the time to document ALL of those “gassy” moments. Seems to me they have too much time on their hands as it is.

It looks like a Fail on both sides of the matter.

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Lychii January 14, 2013 at 11:29 am

There are many things the employee can try to alleviate the problem, from smell-absorbing pads to Febreze to diet adjustment.

We don’t know if his problem is medical or comes from laziness/spite, but it sure seems that nothing was done by either the man or his managers to make co-workers’ life easier.

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Carol January 14, 2013 at 11:43 am

I’m not sure that I would call it “knee-jerk sympathy”. I would say that we are only seeing the employer’s side of the story. I do think that this could have been handled better, perhaps by all parties.

I am sure that the continued public shaming of this individual is not beneficial to anyone.

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Merrilee January 14, 2013 at 11:44 am

And THIS is where our tax dollars are going. That was my first reaction to the letter. Who would actually sit there and document every time this poor man passed gas? I understand that flatulence due to lactose intolerance can be quite offensive, but to get to this level?

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Cheyne January 14, 2013 at 12:09 pm

In reading the letter of reprimand, the employee has gone to the doctor for “other medical issues” but not for the flatulence. If employee had addressed the flatulence with his doctor, I would be much more sympathetic to his condition. Self-diagnosing does not equal a medical issue as much as some would like to think so. If the employee had gone to the doctor over his gas attacks, there would NOT have been a letter of reprimand in the first place, as the flatulence would be a documented “medical condition”.

I have to agree with a PP that an air purifier near the “gassy” employees desk may help the situation. As for putting him in a closed door office, those are ususally in high demand in any office situation and it may not be possible (or seen as rewarding him for his excessive gas).

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Goldie January 14, 2013 at 12:09 pm

To me, it’s pretty cut and dry. At the rate the flatulence is taking place, none of the employees sharing an office with this man can concentrate on their work. Since we’re talking medical issues, personally, if I were one of them, the smell would probably trigger my migraine on a daily basis, making it impossible for me to function. I assume whatever this man’s coworkers are doing over the course of their work day, is important and needs to be done? Well he’s not letting them do whatever that is. Can he make up for their lost productivity? If not, then his supervisors do not have much of a choice but to take action. It’s either that or explain to their own supervisors that their office isn’t getting anything done because of one man’s gas attacks.

Also, why would he “not disclose the findings to protect his own privacy”? He’s been written up. His job is on the line! He should disclose anything that would help him keep it. Besides, as far as his coworkers go, his privacy is already pretty much shot, since he performs private bodily functions in front of them all day, every day. I don’t see how a doctor’s note can make this situation any worse than it already is; if anything, a doctor’s note would have improved things. The only possible reason he didn’t show such a note, to me, is that it doesn’t exist.

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Bint January 14, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Weird. He’s clearly been to the doctor before to get evidence for his medical condition, yet he doesn’t go back through all this time to get any proof that it contributes. Nor does he ever address the possibility of his going to the loo to let it out.

Given what it must have been like for his colleagues to complain and track it in such detail (how many times did they miss?), I pity them. The first meeting is in May, the reprimand comes in December, and it is noted that the flatulence smells horrible. Admin is right, there is nothing here to show he’s actually done anything about it – he says he’ll ‘investigate’, he’ll ‘try not to’ and he ‘will buy’ some meds for it, but there’s no proof, and on one of those days he’s doing it about six times in 15 minutes! Leave the room!!! But yes, I pity his colleagues!

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Goldie January 14, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Apologize for the double post. Re-reading the supervisor’s letter, I noticed something. May 18, the man gets a negative performance review due to his flatulence and is informed that his coworkers are avoiding helping him with his work because of that. July 17, his boss’s boss talks to him about same issue. August 14 (almost three months from the original conversation), Deputy Director talks to him about the same issue and the man says that he is “going to purchase the medicine called Gas X” SAY WHAT?! THREE MONTHS after originally being told that his gas is making the entire office’s eyes water, he’s *maybe possibly considering buying Gas-X*???? He should have bought it and started using it three months BEFORE May 18th! Sorry, this man gets no sympathy from me. He made no effort whatsoever.

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Spuck January 14, 2013 at 12:27 pm

I’m kind of torn on this one. I grew up with three brothers, and all their friends, so I know what a bad fart is. On the other hand I also know that of all bodily noises and functions they are the hardest to control. Once it became a question of a medical issue it became up to the employers to be accommodating as long as it didn’t effect his daily job. If they had tried fire someone because they had turrets syndrome or excessive sneezing, there wouldn’t be any questions about the problem.

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Calli Arcale January 14, 2013 at 12:42 pm

Admin:
“That’s at least six months for the employee to have seen a doctor and medically address the problem. ”

I can understanding expecting him to see a doctor within six months, but to expect the problem to be solved in that timeframe is unreasonable. Most problems with the GI tract are extremely difficult to solve, and it can be years of agony before the problem is even correctly identified, let alone fixed. You are correct that knee-jerk sympathy for him is unreasonable, and that there is no evidence he did much about it*, but so is knee-jerk sympathy with his manager and officemates, who likewise did nothing about it, such as relocating him.

*though note that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

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Justine January 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm

A fan? Yeah, unless it is pointed toward an open window that would just spread the smell around. Reminds me of long ago when airplanes used to have “smoking” sections. Like the smoke would go out an open window.

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Daphne January 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm

The government is the single largest employer in this country. There just has to be a job for this guy that doesn’t involve sharing space with other people. There has to be an enclosed office available SOMEWHERE he can transfer to–or a work from home opportunity they can strongly suggest he take.

That said, there are a lot of nasty people out there–some of whom no doubt get sick pleasure in smelling bad. I believe the original complaint was sincerely intended and I feel for the poor employees who have to put up with this rude and foul co-worker.

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RobM January 14, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Admin,
I have to say that I’m a little disappointed that you’re unwilling to consider there are both sides to every story.
“Your knee jerk sympathy is out of sync with the facts contained within the reprimand letter.”
– How are we able to know that all the statements in the reprimand letter are factual? The letter was withdrawn after all.

“That’s at least six months for the employee to have seen a doctor and medically address the problem.”
– And how do we know that the man concerned and their doctor haven’t spent all 6 of those months trying very hard to address the problem? Fixing a medical issue is not like re-wiring a plug or painting a room.

Clearly this is an unpleasent experience for this man’s colleagues, but it might be equally unpleasent for him, and very embarassing and upsetting. We don’t know, and I’d respectfully suggest that painting it as anything different based on the information presented is a little unfair.

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admin January 15, 2013 at 11:01 am

RobM, My husband works at a management level in the US government and has experience attempting to discipline employees. The fact that it has escalated to repeated meetings and a written reprimand indicates there has been a serious, ongoing problem with this employee that goes back farther than the initial May meeting. It is almost impossible to fire or demote a federal employee unless something illegal has been committed and the hoops that must be jumped through to do so are so onerous that most managers don’t bother. How “business” is run in the government is not comparable to the private sector. Further, the reprimand letter from the Division Director is private and only shared with the employee and there are consequences to the management if one of them had leaked the letter publicly. In other words, they would be liable to receive disciplinary action from their superiors. I don’t have sympathy for the man’s privacy because he is the only person with the legal right to forward his reprimand letter and he is most likely the source of published letter which had the effect of getting him off the disciplinary hook.

And if you believe that an employee who knows he is immune from discipline would not retaliate against his fellow employees with inappropriately timed flatuence, then you have not had the benefit of managing people within the context of the federal government office. The stories my husband could tell….

Lactose intolerant? You eat Bean-O or Gas-X and avoid those foods in your diet. As a lactose intolerant person, I an attest that Gas-X works great on the occasions I eat dairy foods.

Farting among people is controllable for nearly everyone. You have the physical ability to clamp down on that anal sphincter and hold it in until you can get to the bathroom or a less populated area. It would be a crass world if everyone believed in their right to let one loose whenever the mood struck, regardless of who was nearby.

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Allie January 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm

I suspect there is more to this incident than meets the eye and I’m sure I can state without controversy that there are always two sides to every story. However, what interests me in all this is how the employer approached the employee about the problem. Odiferous coworkers are a ubiquitous problem. It is not always due to a high level of gas. I have encountered many people over the years who have strong body odor (or B.O. as we used to call it in high school). How gently and kindly to alert such people to this issue is a perennial problem. At one workplace, our mail man had terrible B.O. that would linger in the office long after he had delivered the mail. We used to run (literally, sprint) to the door to meet him when we saw his truck pull up so that he would not have to enter the office to deliver the mail, leading us to coin the phrase “the postman always reeks twice”. My husband’s office is currently wrestling with this dilemma as there is a woman there with unpleasant B.O. The higher-ups have tried to offload this delicate task by delegating it to employees lower down the chain. Understandably, no one wants to do it as there really does not seem to be any way to do it without hurt feelings and embarrassment. Just imagine that conversation: “Um, ‘Bertha,’ we need to talk…” I welcome your thoughts.

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Calliope January 14, 2013 at 2:04 pm

“All odors are particulate, said one chemist I used to work with.”

Oh, how I wish I’d remained ignorant of this fact. I mean, it makes perfect sense, but still, I’d never thought about it that way. Now that I have, riding city buses will take on a new level of unpleasantness.

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Angie January 14, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I know of a case where a woman was fired from her job for the same issue – but it was because her supervisor repeatedly asked her to go to the doctor and she refused.

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Dani313 January 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Although it may seem time consuming to track every instance of flatulence this man has produced, all it would take is a piece of paper marked with the time of each occurrence. He farts, coworker looks at the clock and writes down the time. It takes less than 5 seconds. Furthermore, it is quite presumptuous to say that his coworkers show no empathy or patience. It has been 6 months and there is no improvement. He is disrupting his coworkers. Because someone’s personal hygiene is a delicate topic many are assuming that is coworkers are being insensitive. I have a very sensitive stomach and to be around his “odor” would definitely cause me to vomit.

I had a coworker who was very lax in her personal hygiene and every time she walked passed me I would have the urge to puke. Several coworkers noticed her smell and went to HR. HR warned her and because she continued to smell she was fired after 2 months.

If he does have a medical issue he needs to address it immediately. Placing a purifier in his space may work but I would caution against anytime of air freshener as many have allergies to those products. He may also want to look at his diet. I am in my mid-twenties and several things (milk, guacamole, pork, beef, etc.) are no longer in my diet because of the distress they cause my GI systems.

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Anonymous January 14, 2013 at 2:56 pm

This sounds like a squabble among eight-year-olds to me: “Jason FARTED!!! It smells GROSS!!!” Adults shouldn’t behave this way.

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Daphne January 14, 2013 at 2:59 pm

@Allie, “the postman always reeks twice” LOL! That’s funny!

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The Elf January 14, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Sorry, I don’t buy the medical problem thing. Not that it isn’t possible, but that it doesn’t appear to be the problem here. In the report, medical issues are discussed (specific ones aren’t mentioned) and it was determined that wasn’t the cause of the gas. If it was something like the GI problem Denise’s family member had, he could have reported that and gotten off the hook. If it is the cause, Mr. Farter should bring in something from the doctor about it. This went on for months – plenty of time to get a doctor’s report. Even if they couldn’t pin down an exact cause and effect a solution, a doctor could say that it appears to be medical and they’re working on it.

The back-and-forth of the report shows that the supervisor tried multiple ways to resolve it – to do anything but report the employee! – before finally doing so. The report also cited multiple employee complaints. While it is possible this is a witch hunt, it would have to be a particularly coordinated one.

I think what we have is a guy who got called on an occassional toot and now makes a passive-aggressive point of stinking up the place.

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2browneyes4 January 14, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Were they absolutely sure that it was the same coworker every time? They must have determined that it was him/her from the sound.

I used to work in a call center and worked in a division confined to 8 desks. There was one coworker that smelled very bad. His hygiene was gross, to the point that, over the years that he worked there, the manager of that division had suspended him TWICE. She had multiple discussions with him before she suspended him the first time, and only after she suspended him did he ask a coworker “do I really smell that bad?” After suspension, he cleaned himself for a couple of weeks, but reverted back to the filth. It wasn’t just natural B.O. He often came in with dirty clothes, with holes. He once wore a Tshirt that had so many holes I thought it was part of some kind of costume. The odor was so bad, that I once moved to another desk just to get away from him. I may seem heartless, but the truth, verified by many employees who had worked there a long time, was that he was actually quite wealthy and lived in a very nice apartment (that he never cleaned). He just didn’t care about hygiene.

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hakayama January 14, 2013 at 3:49 pm

“Your rights end where my personal space begins.”
Could that thought be applied to the odoriferous individual?
Of course, big bureaucracies are not inclined to logical problem solving, such as the suggested separate, vented room for the unhappy fellow.
But then, we have no inkling if he really was that unhappy with his “affliction”. He might have not only enjoyed it, but FED it too. And I mean that literally.

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girl_with_all_the_yarn January 14, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Wait wait… a quick google search tells me that the average person passes gas about 14 times in a day. The documentation states that he was passing gas up to 9 times in a workday.

So he’s making a perfectly normal bodily function that the vast majority of people cannot control (trust me – you fart just like I do) and everyone’s making a stink about it? What about the people who are letting farts fly in their own cubicles, and it stinks just like everyone else?

Gotta say, this is stupid. The only rude person here is whoever is complaining about it. Why on earth should someone have to defend a body’s normal response?

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sv January 14, 2013 at 3:52 pm

If the employee in question had one bad, gassy day I would have nothing but sympathy for him. If he had a GI issue that he was trying to get under control I would cringe at how humiliated he must feel. However, it doesn’t really sound like either of these things are the case. If management at my workplace took me aside and formally told me I was too gassy to work with I would be MORTIFIED and immediately do anything and everything to address the issue. But this went on for months, which is obviouslty why someone felt the need to document each and every time he passed wind. I’d call that a hostile work evironment, all right!

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MichelleP January 14, 2013 at 3:54 pm

I’m torn on this one. I have a sensitive stomach and cannot handle strong odors, but also due to a delicate stomach have problems with gas. I do everything I can to prevent it in public. I once worked with a colleague that had paralyzing BO. Nothing was done about it, or even said, as he was mentally handicapped. I had sympathy, but my stomach didn’t.

Not to sound stupid, but I’m confused as to how anyone passing gas can be deliberately offensive. As a nurse and a human, I’m fairly certain it’s impossible to make oneself pass gas or hold it in. The only explanation I can think of is Mr. Gas is deliberately eating foods that cause flatulence, in which case that is frightening that he is a public servant.

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gramma dishes January 14, 2013 at 4:04 pm

I hate to even mention this as a possibility, but unfortunately it actually is.

Is there any chance that he can file a claim against the company for harassment or firing without ‘just cause’? Is there a possibility that he’s doing this on purpose, hoping to attract some sort of disciplinary action so that he can then sue? Then, voila!! He has money and he never has to come to work again.

I can’t begin to imagine being told (repeatedly) that several of my coworkers were complaining about a smell I was making and not trying to do everything possible that I could to prevent that — starting from the moment it was first brought to my attention. That this guy doesn’t seem to care enough to do anything to prevent this situation hints to me that he may have an ulterior motive. Probably not, but it did cross my mind.

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Lacey January 14, 2013 at 4:32 pm

I’ve never understood the argument that a person can’t hold in a fart. Yes, yes you can. Maybe not all day, but certainly long enough to leave the area where all your coworkers are. Is everyone making that argument really saying that they fart at will in public, no matter the situation? I really doubt it. This guy is not trying at all. Whatever his reasons, why should his coworkers have to inhale his stench?

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LonelyHound January 14, 2013 at 4:51 pm

To everyone who is appalled that his coworkers are so preoccupied with him passing gas that they document every event I have to tell, in the federal environment, that is the way it is. One of my good friends works for the federal governement and she had to document three months worth of incidents before the person was even talked to and had to continue documenting for another 6 months before the employee was reprimanded! And this person was putting dog poo on the radiators of people’s cars! It is entirely possible people had been coming to the manager months before the original May 18th discussion. Then continued to complain leading to the July meeting. His co-workers were probably informed that they would have to show a list of incidents before any sort of reprimand would take place, hence the documentation.

I do not know if I can feel sorry for him since he was given so much time to address the problem. Since, all that was really required was a doctor’s note saying this is a medical related condition that cannot be helped but is being eased by Gas-X I am even less inclined to feel sympathy.

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Yasuragi January 14, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Checking the time table for the flatulence, it seems to mostly happen around lunch time. The employee claims to be lactose intolerant which is a shame but something that can be treated with diet changes and some medications. If someone knows that slice of pizza is going to cause horrible flatulence but still eats it in the office….

Some people wonder how a natural body funtion can be so offensive. No doubt because we know if we had gas we would be MORTIFIED. I know I would. Others are not to conscientious. I’m sure many of us have worked with someone who thought their gas was the height of humor. “Hey Frankl! PPPFTTTT! HAHA! Shouldn’t have had that alfredo, eh? Hahahahaha! PFFfftt! Whoops! There’s the ice cream!”

It would be great if we could get the employee’s side of all this but chances are we’ll never know the whole situation.

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Shannan January 14, 2013 at 6:06 pm

To Girl with All The Yarn:

I’ve worked in offices alongside people and hardly ever noticed flatulence. If people are complaining about it, it must be LOUD AND DEADLY (otherwise known as LBD)…….

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Marozia January 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm

I’m inclined to agree with all of the above. As a medical typist, I can understand GI problems and people cannot help it. BO is also linked with GI upsets. If this person if doing it deliberately, it’s time for HR to step in.

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Kali January 14, 2013 at 7:38 pm

MichelleP, I assure you that it is fully possible to hold in gas, and to pass it on purpose at a time and place of your choosing, and I highly doubt that I’m unique in doing so.

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Kate January 14, 2013 at 8:29 pm

In response to girl_with_all_the_yarn, that may be true, but as I understand it, we don’t even notice all those times because they are generally silent and scentless. This man’s flatulence clearly wasn’t.

What really surprises me about this whole thing is that everyone knows how bad the economy is, and how precious jobs are. This guy didn’t make any effort, no doctor’s note, nothing, after being asked to do something about his flatulence. Clearly he didn’t care, and probably knew how hard it would be for him to be fired for it.

And I agree with posters who note that his gas was not related to any medical condition, and how other people’s medical conditions, such as migraines or asthma, could have been triggered.

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Jenn50 January 14, 2013 at 8:32 pm

A colleague at a part time position has TERRIBLE, constant gas. He eats a paleo diet high in meat and vegetables, and tells us that his flatulence started when he began this diet years ago, but that he “feels so great on it” that he’s unwilling to adjust it to lessen the gas. It is really bad. I’m not talking about the occasional toot and whiff, but every few minutes, a cracking, thundering, leg-lifting event accompanied by a thick, sulphurous cloud impossible to ignore. Fortunately, we work in an environment where we are often outdoors, but inside a small room for briefings or meals? It is gaggingly bad. It only adds insult to injury that he smirks and jokes, perhaps in a misguided attempt to diffuse the situation, saying things like, “Oh, come on! My farts smell like roses!” If this is the situation in the above workplace, I understand the colleagues getting angry and frustrated to he point of intense documentation. For our part, we have insisted that when the offender feels a gas attack coming on, he excuse himself outdoors, or out of the vicinity of the rest of us. It also became an issue at his full-time work, a building where he couldn’t easily leave to relieve the pressure. The management set him up at a workstation far away from the others, directly under the ventilation system, which has largely helped.

I understand not being able to avoid flatulence, really, I do. But I’ve worked with enough guys who think it’s funny to “crop dust” an area to believe that the malodorous worker might not have been trying very hard to fix the solution.

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AthenaC January 14, 2013 at 10:11 pm

From the documentation, this appears to be a pretty clear-cut case of the employee not doing even the minimum to address this issue.

However, as others have pointed out, we don’t have the employee’s side of the story. And since I have personally been in the position of having my statements and behavior mischaracterized and even fabricated in a performance review, I think the other side of the story is necessary before rendering a verdict.

I do think it’s interesting that the reprimand suddenly vanished when it got some attention. Almost as if it were a tacit admission that it doesn’t stand up under scrutiny. I would think that if it was a legitimate issue, it wouldn’t have mattered.

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GroceryGirl January 15, 2013 at 12:01 am

I used to work with a guy whose flatulence was BRUTAL. I’m talking make-you-feel-like-you’re-going-to-pass-out kind of gas. It was widely discussed among my coworkers but we pretty much felt that it was an impossible issue to bring up. I’m kind of impressed that these people approached this guy. It really does make it difficult to work with someone (similar to someone having really terrible body odor) and while it isn’t entirely avoidable, one could certainly shy away from foods likely to cause very bad gas!

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The Elf January 15, 2013 at 8:28 am

Jenn50, Seriously????? Seriously???? I’m astounded. I understand that he doesn’t want to change his diet, but, dude, at least TRY some Gas-x or something. Or at least plan some extra bathroom trips to cut loose!

I’ve had some bad days, GI-wise. Hasn’t everyone? You do your best to contain it and apologize if it slips out anyway. This should not be a regular thing unless something is wrong, medically. And if it is, it behooves you to try to fix it.

This is like the BO thing. When you have a medical problem that causes something like that (and it has been me before, so I know what I’m talking about), you should be aware of it and try to minimize the impact. This guy was definitely aware of it! But it doesn’t sound like he tried to minimize the impact.

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The Elf January 15, 2013 at 8:32 am

Kate, “What really surprises me about this whole thing is that everyone knows how bad the economy is, and how precious jobs are.”

Remember that we are talking about a federal government employee. It’s hard to fire one of those! Something like this, with the intense documentation, is going down that path. I work in federal government too, and if I could wave my magic wand and reform the way government functions, it’s one of the first things I’d do. The people I work with now are awesome, but I’ve worked with some real dead wood before, including people promoted to the level of their incompetence to get them in a place where they can’t do any damage. It’s easier to move them someplace harmless than it is to fire them, and that’s a damn shame.

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Goldie January 15, 2013 at 9:38 am

Lonely Hound, good point! I wasn’t aware of this policy.

Girl_with_all_the_yarn, hmm, I’ve been in the workforce since ’89 and I have never let one fly… what am I missing? Honestly in all these years and all the jobs I’ve had, I can count on my one hand the coworkers that frequently passed gas at their desks. And yes, everyone in the office knew. One girl sat in the cubicle next to mine and dropped the silent and deadlys all day. I was puzzled as to where the smell was coming from, and terrified that people would think it was me, since I was a new hire and had just started at that job. Two months after I started, she found another job and left, and surprise, all of a sudden it didn’t smell anymore. I’m not sure that what she had was an uncontrollable medical problem, given that she was also known to stick her hand down her jeans and pick her butt when talking to coworkers. Honestly, most people can make it through a job interview, or a date, or a probation period at work, without passing gas once. Then as soon as they feel job secure, all of a sudden they cannot control themselves?

GroceryGirl, I had a coworker with massive BO and I didn’t approach him about it, I went to my manager (after I noticed that his smell was interfering with my colleagues’ being able to do their work). I don’t think we’re even allowed to approach our coworkers about these things directly, as a conversation on a sensitive subject like that one, without witnesses, can be misconstrued. Not sure what the management said to my smelly coworker, but he stopped smelling within a few days and never had BO in the office again.

IMO, it’s too bad that they backed down and withdrew the reprimand. This guy’s coworkers are probably interviewing for jobs at other places even as I type.

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Jenn50 January 15, 2013 at 12:23 pm

The Elf, I wish I was joking or exaggerating. I work in an extremely male dominated, “manly men” industry where most guys think nothing of passing gas, and for the most part, it’s a minor irritant, but his guy drove EVERYONE crazy. He “doesn’t take pills” so he won’t use GasX or Bean-o.

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admin January 15, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Gas-X is actually a small, melt in the mouth strip, not a pill.

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Carol January 15, 2013 at 1:53 pm

FWIW, my husband works at the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division and defends the federal government against law suits by terminated and disciplined employees every day, and he’s got his stories too. His biggest issue is not the employees, it’s the supervisors and their legally indefensible actions that he somehow has to defend. His opinion is that this case and has not been handled well by the management in this case. Also, it’s important to point out that SmokingGun generally gets its information from public sources. It’s quite possible that they obtained the letter from court records, not due to a leak from anyone.

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FunkyMunky January 15, 2013 at 4:54 pm

In over six months he couldn’t get ONE doctor to say his flatulence was caused by a medical condition? Either he’s incredibly lazy or simply does not have either a medical condition or any respect for others in the workplace.

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Schnickelfritz January 15, 2013 at 7:24 pm

We have this exact problem in our office at this time. This guy, is considerably decent looking, great build. (I mention his build, because of his diet mentioned below.) He has worked with us about one year. His gas is horrifying. At first, it was very confusing. I heard about it from his adjoining cube mates, colleagues in his meetings etc. I am not kidding – I have brothers, my Mom would make them “fan the front door” when we were kids – the rotten egg smell. That was NOTHING compared to this guy. We have a stand of trade material, near my desk. The first time I got a whiff, I almost vomitted. To boot, this guy cooks a container of what I think is spinich, garlic and something else (I love spinich, so there is something else we have no idea, in this daily snack) in the office microwave at about 1:30 pm (after he has had a lunch). The entire department is gagging. He also did this twice, during two in-office baby showers. It ruined the flavor of the cake, etc., just breathing the “snack” concoction, was just like his gas – like you could taste it! It is truly horrifying. His manager is a whimpish guy, and is very aware, but has never addressed it yet. People have actually left meetings in small conference rooms, because they wanted to puke. It is not your normal “stinker” by any means.

Also, he has some kind of problem – he makes weird animal noises (I kid you not) cats, squirrels, strange human talk with animal noises intermixed. He must have some kind of tourettes, or some problem. Once he was doing his human/animal jibberish, and a VP walked by. He flinched (I witnessed this) and did not make another weird noise, for weeks. He talks so loud, you can hear him through the entire department, about 25 cubicles, when he is on the phone. He is in his 40s, never married. He makes these grimacing faces, and once, at my desk, his face was so contorted, I could tell he was trying not to make his animal noises – he turned and walked away, and then came back later to finish his request. It is sad, but also so very offensive. And, they are all “silent George’s”. My friend sits near him, and she is so angry that management has not addressed it.

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Angela January 15, 2013 at 8:45 pm

I have nothing to say about the employee but I will check twice the next time I read this site while eating lunch.

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