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Federal agency retracts reprimand to flatulent worker

By Jessica Gresko

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 04:50 p.m. HST, Jan 11, 2013

WASHINGTON >> A federal government agency did more than wrinkle its nose at an employee's flatulence problem, issuing an official reprimand after months of malodors. But the agency said today that it has since retracted the rebuke.

The reprimand letter, which runs four pages and is dated Dec. 10, charges the Social Security Administration employee with "conduct unbecoming a federal employee" and "creating a hostile work environment" because of the repeated gas passing.

It says coworkers didn't want to work with the person because of the problem, which the employee seems to have attributed to lactose intolerance. The letter also contains a chart documenting 60 instances of flatulence, nine on one day in September.

The letter was originally posted on The Smoking Gun website with names blacked out.

Social Security Administration spokesman Mark Hinkle said Friday in a two-sentence email that the reprimand was rescinded a week after it was issued "when senior management became aware of the reprimand" and that the agency, which has its headquarters in a suburb outside of Baltimore, could not comment further because of "privacy concerns." He declined to say the employee's gender or where the person worked.

According to the letter, at least three people tried to get to the bottom of the smelly situation with the employee beginning in May, when the employee's supervisor brought up the topic during a performance discussion.

The author of the reprimand letter, a manager, confronted the employee in July, noting several coworkers had complained and asking if "you could make it to the rest room before releasing the awful and unpleasant odor." The employee apparently offered to try not to pass gas and to turn on a fan when it happened, but the letter writer says that solution wasn't satisfactory.

"I explained to you that turning on the fan would cause the smell to spread and worsen the air quality in the module," the letter writer chastises.

Later, after a conversation with a deputy division director, the employee blamed the problem on lactose intolerance and offered to purchase Gas-X. The deputy division director also asked that the employee investigate a medical explanation.

"He asked that you check with your doctor to see if there are other options to help you address your flatulence and that you could not pass gas indefinitely and continue to disrupt the work place," the letter says.

The employee submitted information about medical conditions but nothing indicating "that you would have uncontrollable flatulence," according to the letter.

"It is my belief that you can control this condition," the letter writer says.

The employee's flatulent episodes were then documented by date and time over a three-month period beginning in September. The letter does not explain how the record was made.

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pauliboy wrote:
Just stop eating dairy, dummy!
on January 11,2013 | 04:00PM
EducatedLocalBoy wrote:
The reason why the reprimand was withdrawn was probably because it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Pauliboy's solution is illegal. It's like a supervisor telling an obese female subordinate to quit eating Bic Macs because the supervisor is disgusted with looking at her fat bulging from her blouse.
on January 11,2013 | 05:04PM
pauliboy wrote:
I'm not the supervisor so my suggestion is not illegal and your comparison is incredibly misguided. The ADA doesn't pertain to flatulence especially when no medical diagnosis would confirm that this employee has uncontrolled flatulence. Back to school for you "Educated" one.
on January 11,2013 | 09:33PM
Lanikaula wrote:
yeah, kinda a diet thang. but on the brighter side, sheesh you could get the best seats in the house at any event.
on January 12,2013 | 03:09AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Methane is a cheap clean energy source...
on January 12,2013 | 06:19AM
Ipo_Mom wrote:
You think so, lovinghawaii? Then you try working next to it....
on January 12,2013 | 06:51AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Or cook ur breakfast on someones arse.
on January 12,2013 | 06:57AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Lol i thought u only talked about the rail.
on January 12,2013 | 12:39PM
pandadaddy wrote:
The taxpayers probably paid $1MIL for a semi-thorough investigation of the matter. It's a good thing we're all paying more taxes to fund these terrific causes.
on January 12,2013 | 07:49AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
Everybody got to eat.
on January 12,2013 | 12:38PM
cojef wrote:
It's a smelly problem and wouldn't care to work in that kind of environment. What is the remedy or recourse does a co-worker have in such a situation. Was supervisor from 1971 to 1990 and never had that kind of problems, of course it was not at the SSI agency.
on January 12,2013 | 10:08AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
I only clicked on this article because i wanted to know if HSA made up the word flatulence or if it really was used in a story.
on January 12,2013 | 12:37PM
localguy wrote:
Not a problem. Have the employee wear a special pair of airtight pants designed with an air exchange system to control the gas. Similar to our astronaut suits. Hey, maybe pipe the gas into the building's natural gas system. Might as well put it to use.
on January 12,2013 | 01:26PM
Makua wrote:
Years ago in HS I had a teacher in social studies that told us a story to make us think. What would you do if your we're a soldier in the Second World War in Germany, at night, in a very crowded tent with ice and snow outside. One of the soldiers is very sick with diarrhea and excessive flatulence. Would you let this soldier remain in the tent or would you force him to stay outside in the snow? I've never forgotten that story. That could be me. How do you treat your fellow man? Are you selfish or open to help? Granted this article is different with a plausible straight forward fix that works for all - send to doctor, change diet, require a fix before returning to work.
on January 12,2013 | 01:51PM
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