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Could Poor Hygiene and Body Odor Fall Under Wrongful Termination?

Have you ever seen an episode of The Office? This iconic TV show often portrays how personalities clash in the workplace.

When employees congregate, it’s almost inevitable that some won’t get along. What happens when a co-worker’s poor hygiene or odor begins affecting your productivity? How should the office respond?

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about body odors in the office.

Identifying Poor Hygiene Problems

Workplaces should be safe and inviting for all employees. When one employee’s bad breath or body odor offends another, what action should get taken?

Is there a body odor workplace law to seek advice from? Currently, there’s not.

The best course of action for an employee is to report the situation to their HR manager.

Wrongful Termination, Discrimination, and Harassment Concerns

HR managers must remain sensitive when dealing with these situations. Why?

Not all offending smells are a result of poor hygiene. Some odors are a symptom of a disability, which means they’re protected under law.

The Americans with Disabilities Act would protect an employee in this situation. HR would need to provide accommodations for the disability.

The main point is to distinguish where the offensive odor is stemming from. here are a few examples of what’s protected and what’s not:

  • Odors from unwashed clothes: Not protected
  • Odors caused by medications: Protected
  • Odors caused by not wearing deodorant: Not protected
  • Odors caused by medical conditions: Protected

A wrongful discrimination suit could arise if the employee gets fired for their odor.

It’s also illegal to create a hostile work environment by being passive-aggressive. Never try to placate employees by being overt with air fresheners.

Possible HR Solutions

So, what are some potential solutions for HR when informed about smelly coworkers?

First, identify what’s causing the problem. If personal hygiene is the problem, then refer to your company’s dress code policy. If the odor is disability related, then you’ll need to seek other options.

Work with the employee to create a reasonable accommodation. The solution may include a work-at-home office, or it could involve using perfumes.

How Can I Manage My Symptoms?

Have you ever gotten called out for being one of those smelly people at the office? Such labels can feel very demoralizing and hurtful.

If it’s hygiene-related, then you’ll have to work to correct the problem. Here are a few solutions:

  • Try a new, scented laundry detergent
  • Start using deodorant, cologne, or perfume
  • Shop these e-liquids to reduce the smell of second-hand smoke
  • Work on improving your self-care habits

Understand your rights when a disability is causing the problem. Consider what accommodations would work for you, and discuss them with your employer.

Know Your Rights and Boundaries

Poor hygiene, body odors, and other social faux pas are a sensitive topic to approach in the workplace. Employees need to know their rights, and HR needs to know how to cope with these issues.

Have you ever experienced working with someone with poor personal hygiene? On the flip side, do you suffer from a disability that causes undesirable odors? Tell us your stories by leaving a comment in the box below.

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