Having to have a discussion about hygiene at work is not a fun time. It feels awkward for everyone and the employee being spoken to can feel hurt or shamed.
In one case the smell went far beyond simple BO after an employee adopted a pet fox. Fox urine is extremely pungent, far surpassing the more typical cat smell which can be easily taken care of.
After an employee adopted a fox and began to disrupt everyone’s olfactory senses at work, the boss—a Redditor that goes by mraxick —turned to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit to see if they handled the sensitive situation correctly.
”AITA for threatening to terminate an employee if she doesn’t surrender her pet fox?”
The Original Poster (OP) explained the workplace dilemma:
“For context, I work in Engineering and am a manager of 4 employees, out of 40 or so at our office. A while back, one member of our team was talking about how she was planning to get a pet fox. I didn’t think much of it – I looked it up and they’re legal in our state.”
“She apparently got the fox about a month ago, and has been sharing pictures of it frequently with others (including keeping one on her desk), but we’ve also been noticing several problems.”
“Firstly – when she first got the fox, she was missing from work quite often. She was leaving early, taking 3-hour lunches, and arriving late almost every day.”
“She was aware of it and apologized, saying ‘sorry, I had to take [the fox] to a vet 1 hour away ‘ or ‘sorry I’m late, [the fox] peed on me this morning before work and I had to re-shower,’ but it was happening nearly every day.”
”I talked to her about it, and she was embarrassed and said that she’ll do better, and to her credit she has been better about that for the past couple weeks. But then the other issue – the bigger issue now – is the smell.”
“After she got the fox, I got a couple of complaints from others that she smelled bad. I only noticed it at times, but it was definitely there.”
”Most notably on that day when she said she was late because she had to re-shower when the fox peed on her – I’m not sure if she actually showered, but it certainly didn’t smell like it. But more recently, it’s become almost constant.”
”When she walks into the room you can smell it. Even if she leaves her jacket on the desk when she goes out to lunch, the jacket smells like fox. And it was much worse this week than the week before.”
“I had an uncomfortable conversation with her about it a week ago and said it was becoming a problem, and she seemed very upset and promised that she’s showering right before work every day and washing her clothes frequently to make sure it’s not an issue. But again…over the past week it’s gotten much worse, not better.”
“So after talking with my supervisor for advice, on Friday I had another talk with her and told her the issues weren’t really improving despite her efforts and that something has to change, and it seems like it’s impossible for her to meet attendance and hygiene requirements while caring for a pet fox, and if this doesn’t change, we would have to consider firing her.”
“This made her very upset and she started crying and saying how heartless that was, and how I was unappreciative of everything she’d done over the past 2 years, and how would I like it if someone talked about my child like that.”
“I do feel bad for making her that upset, but I wasn’t sure what else to do…”
“I’m wondering if I handled it correctly. AITA?”
Redditors decided what they thought about this situation by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided the OP was NTA in this difficult situation.
“I hate to say it, but NTA. While I don’t know if you can require her to surrender a pet, you can use pet-related incidents as a reason to terminate her.”
“If she’s unable to perform her job or if she’s interfering with the ability of those around her to perform their jobs, then I think you did what you had to.”
”Foxes are cute, but they’re not housepets. Their urine (so I’ve read and heard) is unbearable, and they can’t be housebroken.”~Weskit
“Foxes smell. It’s usually something sellers check before giving to buyers – they check whether the buyer knows about this and is fully prepared for it.”
“Sometimes they make you live with fox wee or something that smells of foxes before getting one to see if you can actually cope with it, so you don’t buy one and then give it back again later.”
“Your employee is the a**hole for either not doing her research and buying from someone dodgy or knowing about this issue, not telling you and assuming you’d put up with it.”
“Poor fox and poor employer. NTA though.”~Euffy
“NTA – but your wording is confusing. If she surrenders the fox but keeps coming in late and smelling, you would still fire her. The fox it appears, is no fox at all but a red herring.”
“You are threatening termination to an employee that is becoming habitually late and has grooming issues that mean she is bothering others with her smell. These issues need to be fixed and it is reasonable to terminate someone for failing to do so.”~Steve12345678911
”NTA. You have no right to tell her how to manage her private life, and I was expecting to decide you were TA. But you are able to tell her what is and isn’t acceptable at work.”
”You’ve repeatedly told her she’s not meeting the standards required of her – now she needs to show you how she plans to fix the problems. Confine the discussion strictly to what’s happening at work, don’t mention the fox unless you absolutely have to.”~LadyMirtazapine
“NTA – Fox urine is enough to clear a stadium of people. Seriously, it is horrific.”
“And while I get that it’s ‘legal’ for her to own a fox, it’s completely unethical and horrible for the fox. Maybe – MAYBE someone with a lot of land and money who is available all day could care for a wild animal properly, but someone working a regular 9-5 cannot.”~BookReader1328
While problems in the workplace must be handled with tact, Redditors agreed the complaints were valid.
Although animals are wonderful pets in the right environment, heavy research is needed before adopting to know the full extent they will affect your life.