April 23, 2024
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‘Look in the Mirror’: Worker Shares Hygiene Tips Only Sent to Female Staff

A Reddit poster is happy she recently left a company that sent a personal hygiene memo only to female employees.

The poster, who goes by the username “savkyrie,” published a photo of the “personal hygiene items” allegedly suggested by her former employer, Moore’s, which she said is a heating and air conditioning-related company based out of Virginia.

“This was sent out to all the women employees,” said the post, which has been upvoted over 16,400 times in the “AntiWork” forum. “Just the women.”

The memo includes two points of emphasis: keeping clothing “clean and neat” and personal hygiene.

“Make sure that you don’t leave clean clothes in the washing machine overnight and then throw in the dryer,” the memo states. “Clothing will smell soured when you wear if not dried quickly after washing.”

But what seemed to perturb the majority of Redditors was a bulleted list regarding the maintenance of personal hygiene:

  • Keep hair washed and brushed—if you don’t wash your hair every day, make sure you are using dry shampoo to maintain a fresh appearance. If you use oil on your hair, make sure it doesn’t make your hair look oily. Look in the mirror daily.
  • Keep teeth brushed—use breath mints. Especially if you drink coffee and/or smoke—practice good oral hygiene to avoid bad breath.
  • Maintain regular bathing habits to avoid body odor—use deodorant, and use feminine deodorant if needed (Especially during those times of the month. When you can smell yourself, others have been able to smell you for 2-3 days. Wow!)”

“Remember,” the memo concludes in bold, “You are a walking billboard for Moore’s. What are you advertising?”

Many Redditors blamed management for cowardice in likely not addressing a specific employee’s hygiene woes, instead showing “no leadership and no backbone” by sending a memo to all women.

“Something tells me they are unable to afford hygiene products with the amount of money they are making from the job,” one user said.

One poster said she had to address hygiene issues on two separate occasions while managing employees and was told by human resources to send a notice to all employees as part of a quasi-universal policy. She dealt with a woman and a man in each instance.

“It’s an awkward conversation for everyone involved,” she said. “I tried to be compassionate and non-judgmental, but that person is going to be humiliated pretty much regardless of what is said. Dress code issues are a lot easier to deal with.”

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which includes 300,000 HR and business executives in 165 countries, says that issues like body odor can disrupt workplaces based on the odors themselves—or socially due to employees potentially discussing the issue behind the individual’s back.

“Given the personal nature of the problem, HR should advise managers to handle the matter with sensitivity,” the SHRM says. “Body odor may be caused by a medical condition, poor hygiene or a specific diet. If the issue is not addressed appropriately, it may run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act or lead to claims of discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.”

Linda Carter Batiste, a legislative specialist with the Job Accommodation Network, says that the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) has changed a lot over the years and employers should follow a process of steps to assure that a particular employee request can be granted.

By definition disability is an impairment that limits a major life activity, so impairments and their degrees must be handled on a case-by-case basis.

“The definition of disability is now very broad so if you are not sure whether an employee has a disability, err on the side of caution and process the accommodation request,” Batiste said.

No current employment laws specifically address body odor, but court cases have reportedly placed body odor under the ADAAA umbrella.

Federal entities like the Food and Drug Administration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration only mention handwashing and sanitation, respectively, when it comes to personal hygiene.

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