In the interest of fairness and full disclosure, I have been a bit under the weather since returning from a business trip to California last week. Traveling extensively can expose people to increased risks of illness, and I have been very fortunate the last couple years that I have not suffered any ill effects from a fairly busy travel schedule. However, this week I have been fighting off a cold, and it has certainly taken me off my game. I haven't written much, as the NyQuil induced fog I have been in since Tuesday has left me sleeping much more than I normally would have. However, I feel I must push on, and thought today's topic would be perfect for my blog – an inane topic for a heavily medicated writer who tomorrow likely won't remember publishing this. If it makes no sense, please blame the pharmaceuticals. That is something we are used to doing, anyway.

No matter what your position regarding the outcome of this story, there is one point on which we can all likely agree. Extreme flatulence in the workplace stinks.

Really, it does.

A New Jersey Pork Roll producer is being sued by a former employee over how they treated her husband surrounding his medical condition. The husband, who was also an employee of the firm, weighed 420 pounds, had undergone gastric bypass surgery and was left with a condition that caused “extreme gas and uncontrollable diarrhea”. 

According to the lawsuit, which is being termed an “associational disability discrimination” action, the pork roll company's president “frequently harassed her about her spouse's condition, and made comments like “We cannot run an office and have visitors with the odor in the office” and “Tell [him] that we are getting complaints from visitors who have problems with the odors.”

I'm not sure why the president wouldn't tell the guy himself – unless he just didn't want to get too close.

The husband was apparently terminated in February 2014. His wife quit on the same day, “because of the harassment and discrimination her husband faced as a result of his disability and the resulting symptoms”.

Something smells funny here. I am not sure why the wife would be the one to bring a lawsuit, instead of the employee who was directly affected by the alleged actions. Maybe he couldn't find anyone to represent him, or it was thought she would be the more sympathetic victim. Given his condition it is probably best, after all, that he not be in the courtroom, and remains far from the jury that will decide the case. Plus, the suit will give his wife a chance to get out of the house for a while. 

That can't be a bad thing.

If this guy really suffered what is being called “extreme flatulence”, the employer was in an untenable position. He could risk exposing employees to toxic inhalation, or instead choose to get sued for not allowing the condition to interfere with the workplace. A tough choice, to be certain, but the entire case begs the question, “To what end must reasonable accommodation reach?” Just how much should employers and co-workers have to endure from one individuals significant issue?

This is not simply a condition that affects a single person. It is not a matter of providing access or specialized equipment to allow a challenged person to perform their job. The people behind this suit are asking for an accommodation that would apparently infringe on workplace quality for every other employee in the surrounding area. 

At what point do we say “enough!”?

I feel for the employee suffering this condition; yet I also sympathize with the employer. Sometimes life is not fair, but a condition that imposes itself on others in the workplace just may not be that reasonable an issue. There are no winners in this story.  

Frankly, everything about it stinks. Literally.



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