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Wash Your Hands Of Employee Hygiene Issues

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in Human Resources

Address the problem in a timely fashion. Otherwise, the employee's co-workers might take it upon themselves to do so in an unkind manner — and if they tie the hygiene problem to a protected characteristic like race, religion, or national origin, this could spark a hostile environment claim. Employees should already be on notice that they are expected to treat co-workers with respect, no matter what.


However, timely doesn't always mean meeting with the employee immediately. Sometimes, waiting until the end of the workday or shift should be considered. For example, if it is not possible for the employee to go home and shower or otherwise remedy the problem, the employee may become terribly self-conscious, which could affect productivity.


Deal with the issue privately. Managers who want to avoid a one-on-one confrontation may, instead, call a department meeting to issue a hygiene directive to the whole group. Ho...(register to read more)

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Valeria T April 11, 2012 at 9:42 am

No, I do not work from home, nor do I have a corner office, and people at work most definitely do not “leave me alone” as you put it. That having been said, though, I stick to what I said before. The only way hygiene issues could, or should, be a problem is if safety is impacted, as it would be in certain types of businesses (see examples I gave in my first post). Anywhere other than those, and to bring it up is crossing the line between what is and what is not appropriate topics of discussion in the workplace. Besides that, there is such a thing as *minding your own business* which, as mature adults, I think we should all be capable of, and any employees/co workers I have ever had to deal with have all been mature adults, so I would and do expect adult behavior from them. “So-and-so smells…” or similar comments are in my opinion very reminiscent of the behavior of school age children, and I do not expect nor will I accept that sort of behavior in a workplace.


Carla July 27, 2012 at 4:55 pm

Sorry, Valeria, you are missing the point. Smelly co-workers are just that – SMELLY. Sorry if you don’t ‘get’ it, apparently you just haven’t been around a seriously smelly co-worker. I have. I can only hold my breath for so long. Sorry, I have never applied to work at the local sewer plant specifically because I do not care to work around that kind of an odor.

My sister also had a problem at her company. Twice each year, some reps from a France-based supplier came over. People at her company literally drew straws to see who had to go pick up those smelly guys and drive them to their hotel, then on to the office – 45 minutes stuck in a car with them was considered so bad, that driver would get to ‘sit out’ the next ‘drawing’.

As for what behavior YOU will or will not ‘accept’ in the workplace, no one else really cares – it is simply YOUR opinion, and everyone else IS entitled to THEIR OWN opinion. MOST are of the opinion they simply do not care to work around noxious odors. When someone is being made nauseous, the situation MUST be corrected.


Valeria T April 8, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Unless the business is medical or food-service related, where hygiene issues could very easily impact on safety, there is no reason to bring this up. Personal hygiene should be just that *Personal* which means it should NOT be anyone else’s business. Not the manager’s, not the co workers.


Gina April 10, 2012 at 5:59 pm

If you really believe that, then you must work from home or have a nice corner office where everyone leaves you alone. The hygiene habits of co-workers will become a serious issue if not dealt with in the proper manner.


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