Social Security Administration takes back reprimand of flatulent worker

January 10, 2013
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It’s hard to keep a straight face on this one, but it’s worth mentioning as one of the strangest cases of alleged misconduct we’ve seen. 

The Social Security Administration officially reprimanded an employee whom colleagues accused of continuously “passing gas and releasing an unpleasant odor” that created a “hostile work environment.” 

After the Smoking Gun posted the reprimand letter online, the agency said it withdrew its disciplinary action against the flatulent worker.

“When senior management became aware of the reprimand it was immediately rescinded,” agency spokeswoman Dorothy J. Clark said in an e-mail to The federal Eye.

The Social Security Administration said it withdrew the reprimand seven days after sending the letter, which is dated Dec. 10. 

The agency did not respond to questions about the status of the employee and what actions the administration has taken to address the concerns of his co-workers in the absence of a reprimand.

The letter, which came from the agency’s Office of Disability Operations, cited 60 documented instances of the worker passing gas in his office during a period of about 12 weeks.

The employee allegedly had episodes as much as nine times in one day, according to a log of the incidents included in the letter.

Smoking Gun described the employee as a 38-year-old Maryland man working at a Baltimore Social Security office. The site posted what it claims to be a picture of the worker posing with Pepé Le Pew — of all Looney Tunes Characters — at an amusement park.

The man told a supervisor in July that he would start turning on a fan after releasing bodily odors in his work space, but the manager explained that such action would only “cause the smell to spread and worsen the air quality in the module,” according to the reprimand letter.

In August, the man said he would purchase Gas X to help deal with his problem, the letter said. But the log shows he continued to release gas regularly for the next several months. 

The worker provided the agency with proof of medical conditions that could prevent him from working full days at times, but the disability operations manager said: “… nothing that you have submitted has indicated you would have uncontrollable flatulence. It is my belief that you can control this condition.”  

The American Federation of Government Employees declined to comment on this matter, and the union’s Local 1923, which represents Social Security workers in Baltimore, did not respond to queries. 

For more federal news from The Washington Post, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page,and PostPolitics.

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Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks · January 10, 2013