What would you do? Work issue ...

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Cygnet, Mar 22, 2005.

  1. Cygnet

    Cygnet Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 13, 2004
    Middle of nowhere along the Rim, Arizona
    Okay, I work in a fairly casual office/call center. Worked there for the better part of a decade. Never been in trouble. Never had trouble. Been there long enough to have seen people come and go and sort've take an attitude of "stay out of the politics and just do my job" ... good place to work, etc.

    Got called into HR today for the very first time. Seems like people are complaining that I SMELL like "a farm" and that I've come to work with "farm substances" on my clothing and boots.

    This is bogus. I've occasionally shown up with MUD stains on my shoes (often from the company parking lot, which is partly dirt -- my own yard is pure sand and doesn't get muddy), and been teasingly accused of having "farm substances" on my shoes by various people. I always assumed it was just teasing ...

    I do NOT go to work with chicken doodoo on my clothes and shoes. Ewwwwww! Gag! My YARD doesn't even smell -- I keep things dry and clean -- so it's not like I'm just acquiring nasty smells from the ambient.

    So someone had to have a motive to do this to me ... got three possibilities that I can think of, though no proof of what it is, because I don't know who made the complaint.

    # 1, and most likely, is that I have severe, LIFE THREATENING (as in, carrying epinephrine and benadryl 100% of the time) allergies to perfume. It's put me in the hospital as a child -- known, documented, allergy.

    And I have coworkers who refuse to stop wearing it. They get offended if I ask. A number of supervisors also wear perfume. It's bad enough that I'm on four different meds (including a nebulizer 2X a day and regular rounds of oral steroids) all because people think they have a right to wear perfume. I've taken letters from doctors to work. I've printed out pages of information about ADA laws. I've had to go to the urgent care center after work on two occasions. And they WILL DO NOTHING except say they "talked to the offending people." (Which is pretty amusing coming from a supervisor who is wearing perfume.) I was JUST TOLD TODAY by a supervisor that if I "thought positive" I wouldn't have a problem with my asthma, I KID YOU NOT. Gee, my entire problem with allergic asthma, lifelong, documented, nearly killed me a few times, is because I'm not thinking positive about the problem.

    The company has a policy about not wearing scents ... which is not enforced.

    I've had people spray air freshener into the air over my cubicle when I was on the phone and unable to react fast enough to figure out who was guilty. It's really gotten bad lately. (The air freshener, amusingly, is one I don't react to. It's only certain scents that get me.)

    I suspect that one or more of the people who I've gotten rather impolite with recently may have complained to HR about my non-existant "farm odor" as a way to get revenge. Obviously -- as evidenced by the air freshener incidents -- someone is extremely petty.

    (Incidently, I have an appointment with an allergist in a few more weeks -- I'm intending to come in carrying some very clear documentation about the issue and tell them to either address the problem with coworkers wearing perfume, or put me out on disability.)

    # 2 possibility is one of our resident card-carrying members of PETA decided to complain about me on general principles. I make no secret that I raise farm animals -- I've given pet hens to coworkers and I bring in eggs (free) whenever I have extras. A few people have been offended that I'd dare to, as one woman put it, "eat a sentient being." -- this in a discussion about raising chickens that SHE started.

    # 3 Someone's imagination playing tricks on them ... maybe somebody so convinced that I smell because I have animals that they're smelling things that don't exist.

    Anyway ... I'm not sure what to do. My inclination is to blow it off, but ... *sigh* It sounds like I've got an enemy out there, and I don't even know who it is.

    I love the company, I have fantastic benefits, and this is the first time I've had a serious problem. Annoying. Frustrating. Baffling. Anyway ...

  2. Caelma

    Caelma Well-Known Member

    Mar 7, 2005
    I don't want to offend you but you may very well
    smell like a farm and don't realize it.
    People who smoke don't realize how bad they smell.
    People with cats don't realize they are at times a
    walking fur ball full of their cats hair.
    What is a heavenly scent to us, hay, leather, critters
    may smell to them like perfume smells to you.

    As to the air freshener, that may be their way of saying this.

    I would humbly say I didn't realize and and if you don't
    already shower just before you leave and make sure your
    clothes are fresh washed. My farm shoe smell of farm.
    They just do, so have a seperate pair of shoes for work only.

    As to the perfume and allergies,
    It is in their rules and they are not following them.
    You have documentation, go see someone higher
    or an attorney.

    As to the PETA co-worker and you not
    hiding the fact you have a farm.
    Work is work
    Personal stuff and hobbies
    is personal stuff and hobbies.
    I'd keep my farming activities to close
    non co-working friends.

    It is ashame you did not take serious action on the
    asthma/allergy/perfume issue prior.
    Now it may seem like you are doing it
    in retaliation for someones comlpaint or
    it may help show you are being singled out.
    Just my thoughts on this.

  3. Laura

    Laura Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    When you were told of the complaints, did you ask if you smelled right then? Do you have a trusted coworker who you can ask what really is going on? Women can be so petty, girl wars just like in Jr. High!
  4. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

    Sep 2, 2004
    you can be a very clean person and your clothes can be clean but if you hang them out to dry maybee there picking up a sent of the farm
  5. Nette

    Nette Well-Known Member Supporter

    Aug 17, 2003
    A similar thing is happening to someone in our agency who works in the office a few counties over. This is a fairly new employee with cats and dogs. The long-time employee is complaining that she smells and that she's aggravating the long-time employee's allergies. No one else thinks the woman smells, and she always dresses cleanly and attractively. I heard that long-time employee has even donned a surgical mask at the office. I think it's just a case of the newbie being picked on, and hopefully management will get the situation in hand.

    As for your situation, I would try to find a trust-worthy co-worker and get his/her frank opinion. If they don't see/smell your farm substances, you may just be a victim of harrassment. If you feel strongly enough about the matter, you could always file an EEO complaint...
  6. BJ

    BJ Well-Known Member

    Aug 8, 2004
    Ask to be moved to a different work station in another area of the room. Look to find a more open area, at the center isle, front of the room, or something close to better ventilation. This would perhaps allow fresher air to circulate and disrupt the perfume odors of your co-workers. Plug in one of those small desk fans to keep the air fresh in your cube. If your supervisor acknowledges there is a problem then they must work with you to provide a fair solution.

    Have you noticed that every product we use for personal care has a scent. I try to buy unscented body wash, hair spray, deodorant, laundry soap, etc. so that all the various products don't create an odd odor when I put them all together on my body.

    I would follow the advice of Ranchlady. Launder some of your work clothes and hang them in a closet or clothes bag away from your other clothes. Keep a pair of shoes for work in the car and slip into them just before you get out of the car. Try this for several weeks and see if things don't improve at work for you. Good Luck :)
  7. JoyKelley

    JoyKelley Well-Known Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Sound like war and with your allergies , your going to lose because they have so many weapons at their disposal, including management.

    Can you pretend to " take them seriously" apologise profusly( appearing sincere) and bring a change of clothing and change in the bathroom. Make sure everyone knows your doing this because of the complaints and " you don't want to cause trouble"

    Then see what happens, If the complaints continue then you know you have a case of harrassement and can go to an attorney.

    Continue to pursue the perfume issue ( I am also highly reactive to a couple scents and get terribly sick) With the approach of "I scratched your back now you scratch mine". Also consider taking the gal you think complained the most to dinner or lunch and making a friend out of her, it will be the quickest way to get this over. Also offering to let people bring their kids or grandkids " out to the farm" changes their perception of you as dirt farmer to you as the lady with the cool place to go visit.

    Good luck
  8. goatlady

    goatlady Well-Known Member Supporter

    May 31, 2002
    No. Cent. AR
    This is potentially a very serious problem for you, You need to contact a lawyer who specializes in workplace issues as there are Federal laws in place to address these types of issues and protect the employee. I have a feeling if you let this slide you are facing unemployment shortly. You would have a humginger of a lawsuit if that happens, but it would be better to avoid that I would think. Your bringing in documentation of your allergies apparently is cutting no ice with HR/management. How about having your allergist sending a strongly worded letter himself stating the problem? Sounds like possibly #1 and #2 got together and you really cannot let this issue slide.
  9. AnnaS

    AnnaS Well-Known Member

    Nov 29, 2003
    Verndale MN
    I'm much more concerned about your co-workers' behavior than what might be on your shoes.
    From your description, your co-workers and even supervisors are daily exposing you to chemicals that are documented to be very harmful, possibly fatal, to you. They know they are causing you physical harm and treat it as a joke.

    I would talk to an attorney specializing in employment law.
  10. Cygnet

    Cygnet Well-Known Member Supporter

    Sep 13, 2004
    Middle of nowhere along the Rim, Arizona
    I don't smell. Period. I don't wear my work clothes outside. I don't wear my work shoes in the yard -- among other things, I'm concerned about bio security and I do NOT wear the same clothes into the bird pens that I wear off the farm. There's no odor in my yard. There's no odor on me. It's a manufactured complaint. (And the HR lady confirmed she didn't smell anything and there was nothing on me or my shoes.)

    As far as people coming to visit the farm -- that's been an issue as well. I've had people come out in the past, but I'm looking at getting NPIP certified and I just can't risk the biosecurity right now. I've had to say no to people, with varying degrees of firmness. And my house is a mess and I have no real plans to make it sparkling clean, I have other things that are much more important that wouldn't get done if I had to clean house for visitors. (It's not unsanitary, but it's cluttered and just generally shows symptoms of me working 60 hour weeks on top of 15-20 hours of work with the birds every week.)

    As far as losing my job -- not real likely. It's a good company and they'll find it very hard to manufacture a complaint serious enough to get me fired ... This is just mostly annoyance factor. (And I've got an appointment with an allergist next month, which was the earliest I could get in -- I'm going to ask for that letter, phrasing it that I may have to consider disability if they do not address the issue. Which at this point is getting to be true.)

  11. frogmammy

    frogmammy Well-Known Member Supporter

    Dec 8, 2004
    Years and years ago my husband had probs with something like this. *One* co-worker complained about "his odor" to everone who would listen. Now true, my husband was (and still is) sloppy in his clothing and looks like he COULD smell, but not one other person in the office could find ANY odor. Still, the woman kept complaining to management, and husband kept getting counceled.

    Finally, he'd had enough. It was clear that the woman had her own agenda...whatever it was...and was determined that my husband lose his job or be embarrased on an almost daily basis. So husband took action, the problem went away, and the woman quit complaining!

    He dusted a TINY pinch of powered Valerian Root on the carpet under her desk.

  12. mikell

    mikell Well-Known Member

    Nov 7, 2002
    South West MI
    As an cube rat for 20+ years take the offensive and go th HR and draw the line. Enforce the perfume rules and you have talked to an lawyer about it. Put the ball firmly in their court to make the proper move. Let them know you didn't start this but you will end it if necessary.

  13. luvrulz

    luvrulz Well-Known Member Supporter

    Feb 3, 2005
    I agree with mikell. Blow off the odiferous complaints (as long as you are sure they're pulling your chain.....) and let HR know the perfume issue is not one you're going to ignore. They're threatening your life and don't have the right to do that - and then cause you aggravation in the process!

    Try the fan in your cube too and maybe try some unlit scented candles in your cube.... Something that doesn't irritate your asthma.

    Good luck with your situation and I hope it improves! Nothing worse than an aggravating job that you don't want to go to.....
  14. pinemead

    pinemead Well-Known Member

    Jan 18, 2003
    Eastern Shore, Maryland
    Cignet, I could have written most of your post. I'm not having the odor complaints, but I do have the perfume issues. It's not fun to come home from work every day with a sick headache. Many of my coworkers treat my problem as a joke. I asked the woman in the next cube how she would react if I blew smoke in her face all day every day. She said it would make her very ill as she is allergic to cig smoke. I explained to her that her perfume/hairspray/lotion/clothes detergent/dryer sheets/etc. ALL do that to me every day. She eased up a little and doesn't spray her perfume or use her hand lotion while sitting at her desk, but she still uses all of it. Luckily I have a window in my cube and a desk fan. I love it when it's really cold outside and my window is wide open. I wear my coat, but everyone else is freezing. When my boss tells me to close the window, I let him know that I can't do that medically and when others stop forcing their fragrance on me I'll stop opening the window. We have a smoking ban in the office of course, because smoke makes some people sick. I wish we had a no scent policy, but that would be pretty difficult to enforce because every product on the market has fragrance added. I spend a lot of time and money finding and purchasing frag free stuff. Best of luck to you.
  15. almostthere

    almostthere Well-Known Member

    Nov 9, 2003
    I dont have the issues with allergies you have, but I did have a problem with a supervisor for quite some time. She was trying to make me look bad, but in reality, she was trying to pass the buck b/c she was the one being "watched" by important people. I was harrased to the point that I had to leave the job and eventually got an apology but by then it was too late. A job I loved turned into an ulcer. When I got pregnant I was on bed rest twice b/c of the stress. Even after she left the company she set me up with the new people in charge as a bad seed. Office politics can get really nasty. I would suggest standing up for yourself. Even though you think they wouldnt be able to fire you, it might happen. They are all working against you, and will find a reason if you dont stand up for yourself. Dont just sit there, and dont think it will make you a bad person for doing it.
  16. Nik

    Nik Well-Known Member

    Jul 31, 2004
    Frogmammy, I have to ask what Valerian Root is and what it did to stop her complaining. Never heard of it before.
  17. ThreeJane

    ThreeJane Me Love Your Face

    Nov 5, 2004
    North Idaho
    I'm probably going to get my butt jumped for this, but you are allergic to fragrance, correct?

    So everyone around you at your workplace has to stop wearing perfume, or using scented ANYTHING (dryer sheets, laundry detergent, deodorant, shampoo/conditioner, etc.) because *you* are allergic to perfumes?

    I'm not saying that they have the right to put on half a bottle of cologne next to your cube, or spray air freshener into your cube (how rude!), but I do question how it is that everyone must stop doing what is generally considered to be usual behavior because one person is allergic to it?

    How many people do you know that use exclusively unscented EVERYTHING I listed above? I happen to like wearing perfume, scented lotion, fragranced shampoo/conditioner, etc. I wouldn't be very happy to be told I had to go scent-free when I worked because one person was allergic to all of it.

    Reminds me of the school that outlawed all peanut products (including PB&J) because one kid was seriously allergic to peanuts.

    When do you draw the line?
  18. Lisa in WA

    Lisa in WA Formerly LisainN.Idaho Supporter

    Oct 11, 2004
    I have to agree with ThreeJane on this one. And I HAVE a child who is seriously allergic to peanuts. I don't think that schools should ban peanuts or peanut butter. Other children have the right to eat what they like. The teachers and administrators know about her allergy and she reminds them if need be. Clearly, if someone is smearing peanut butter all over the place, they should be disciplined. But she knows not to eat or touch it and carries an epipen.
    If you have an allergy to scents, you should ask to be moved to a different area with better ventilation. Although I have to say, if I worked near someone with your allergy problems, I would try to help you out as best I could. Deliberately spraying air freshner and cologne is really nasty. As I know from my daughter's peanut allergy, a lot of people don't understand the severity of some allergies. They think peanuts might just m ake her itch...they haven't a clue she could die.
  19. bgak47

    bgak47 Well-Known Member

    Sep 4, 2003
    Get a new job & tell these people to Kiss it. I couldn't work anywhere that people thought I Stink.
  20. mzzlisa

    mzzlisa Well-Known Member

    Feb 22, 2004
    Central Indiana
    Okay, I just about spit coffee out my nose when I read Frogmammy's answer (or rather, her husbands!). :haha: I LOVE it!!! What a payback!!

    Valerian smells like feet. Feet that haven't been washed for a month or two. My cats love it, but its BAAAAAD!!! A small bit on a carpet and it will literally stink up a room. I treat my cats to it every once in awhile and I have to spread Vicks in my nose to keep from smelling it. Yes, its that bad.

    Its an herb used for sleeping disorders.