DOCUMENT: Bizarre, Revolting

Feds Withdraw Reprimand Dealt To Gassy Worker

Man's excessive flatulence was charted at SSA office


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SSA Farting Letter

JANUARY 11--The Social Security Administration has withdrawn a reprimand letter issued last month to an employee who was accused of excessive workplace flatulence that created an “intolerable” and “hostile” environment for coworkers.

The “official reprimand,” issued to the 38-year-old male worker on December 10, was quickly rescinded after SSA senior managers got wind of the proposed sanction. The letter's withdrawal came days before TSG disclosed its existence in a December 21 story, according to SSA spokesperson Mark Hinkle.

The employee, a claims authorizer who works out of an SSA office in Baltimore, hung up on a reporter when reached this morning at his desk (though he is surely happy to have the matter behind him).

The SSA worker is seen at right in the adjacent photo, which was apparently snapped during an amusement park trip that included a visit with someone dressed as Pepe Le Pew.

The SSA employee was represented by the American Federation of Government Employees union, officials of which recently circulated a redacted copy of the reprimand letter.  

The five-page letter accused the worker of  “conduct unbecoming a federal officer” and included a log of representative dates and times when the man was recorded “releasing the awful and unpleasant odor.”

According to the letter, a SSA supervisor first spoke to the worker about his “uncontrollable flatulence” in mid-May 2012. In two subsequent meetings with other agency administrators, the worker was confronted about his frequent release of “bodily gas” and how the resulting “terrible smell that comes with the gas” was disrupting the workplace.   

The reprimand letter recounted a conversation during which the worker suggested to a SSA manager that he would turn on his fan “when it happens.” The manager recalled advising him that, “turning on the fan would cause the smell to spread and worsen the air quality in the module.”

The letter also included a log listing 17 separate dates (and 60 specific times) on which the employee reportedly passed gas. “The following dates show the time of your flatulence,” a manger wrote as an introduction to the log, which revealed that the man’s September 19 output included nine instances of flatulence, beginning at 9:45 AM and concluding at 4:30 PM.

SSA administrators did not reveal how the man’s September-to-November flatulence was memorialized.

Claiming that the worker’s “distasteful behavior” was “discourteous, disrespectful, and entirely inappropriate,” the letter’s author concluded that, “It is my belief that you can control this condition.”

The reprimand letter--the least serious sanction that can be leveled against a federal employee--could have landed in the man’s personnel file for up to one year. The letter's purpose, the author noted, was “to impress upon you the seriousness of your actions and is necessary to deter future misconduct.” (5 pages)