Employees with body odor can cause a disruption in the workplace; other employees may feel uncomfortable and unable to perform their jobs. In some cases, managers may feel ill-equipped to deal with this type of situation and seek guidance from HR to provide them with information and resources to use when communicating with the employee about offensive body odor.
It is important for HR to advise managers that such a matter should be handled confidentially and with sensitivity. The body odor may be caused by a medical condition, poor hygiene or an ethnic diet, to name a few examples. If this issue is not addressed appropriately, it may run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act or lead to discriminatory claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
HR or the manager should have a meeting with the employee to bring the matter to the employee’s attention, referring to the company’s dress and grooming policy and/or company expectations. If you do not have a policy, I can help you write one. The employee should be allowed an opportunity to discuss the matter and to provide possible solutions. This is a very delicate matter and an experience HR Consultant can help you. In the event that the employee states that he or she has a medical condition, the employer should reassure the employee that reasonable accommodations will be made.
It is important to recognize that an issue such as this one may cause work stoppage, disgruntled employees and low morale. Therefore, it is important to deal with this situation as soon as you become aware of it. If you feel awkward dealing with this problem, reach out to me for a consult.
Nancy L. Dube, Principal