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When a person suffers from a condition that has an effect on their digestion, it can lead to embarrassment at work as a result of frequent, prolonged, or particularly odorous, trips to the bathroom. Unfortunately, courts are not very forgiving when it comes to employment discrimination claims that involve flatulence. Even when those claims are based on disabilities causing the gas, or preventing an employee from being able to hold the gas until an appropriate time or place, courts routinely dismissed these claims.
Recently, a hostile work environment lawsuit related to excessive flatulence, that was initially filed in a New Jersey federal court in 2015, was dismissed again this past January. The re-filed claim was brought by the wife and co-worker of a man who was terminated because his uncontrollable flatulence was a problem for customers and management, at the Case Pork Roll Co. in New Jersey.
Details of the Claim
Richard and Luanne Clem originally alleged that the employer created a hostile work environment by making various statements about Mr. Clem's excessive flatulence, which was the result of a disability. Their employer asserted that they had received customer complaints over the smell, which as a Pork Roll company, did not go over well. Despite the situation existing since a surgery in 2010, Mr. Clem was not terminated until 2014.
The wife claimed that management made numerous statements to her about her husband's condition which were offensive and caused her to be ridiculed and embarrassed. Additionally, she was claiming a constructive termination because after her husband was terminated, she felt it necessary to quit due to the ridicule.
While Mrs. Clem did not have the disability herself, a little known fact about the ADA is that a person doesn't necessarily even have to be disabled to have an ADA claim. However, the court did not find her hostile work environment claim met the required standard for pervasiveness and hostility, and actually found that the employers comments appeared to originate out of genuine concern for Mr. Clem's condition.
ADA Discrimination by Association Claims
Part of the Americans with Disabilities Act includes protections for non-disabled individuals who are associated with disabled individuals, or perceived to be disabled. For instance, if someone accompanying a wheelchair user is unable to get through the door of a business, they would have a legal claim under the ADA, just like the wheelchair bound person they are accompanying.