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Zookeeper Balks After Pregnant Coworker Asks Him To Clean Otter Den Due To Nauseating Smell

Paul Turner-Smithson/ Getty Images

Some jobs require a solid stomach. Dealing with smelly poop is hard to deal with, but harder when you’re pregnant and dealing with nausea.

So, it is understandable that they would require some special accommodations.

Redditor opi39 encountered this very issue with a coworker. So he turned to the “Am I The A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for moral judgment.

He asked:

“AITA For refusing to clean the otter habitat in our zoo every day, for a pregnant coworker?”

The Original Poster (OP) explained:

“I [22M(ale)] and this coworker just recently got hired as first-time zookeepers in the past couple months.”

“She seemed nice enough when I met her, and we didn’t talk a whole lot as our work didn’t overlap – she’s being trained on small mammals, whereas I’m a ‘swing keeper’ (basically a junior keeper who fills in as an assistant as needed).”

“But a couple weeks ago, she told me that she needs help cleaning the otter dens and wants me to do it every day for the foreseeable future instead of her…which, from my limited experience in that enclosure, was NOT news I was thrilled to hear.”

OP was confused.

“I ask her why I’d need to do that every day, that’s part of her job…she told me that she’s pregnant and that the smell in there is making her sick.”

“I said ‘they’re otters, that smells makes everyone feel sick…’ but she insisted. I said no, why should I have to spend half an hour in there every single day on top of everything else I already have to do…but she got mad and I reluctantly gave it a go that day.”

“It was a miserable 30 minutes.”

“The next day she insisted again, but I put my foot down. I told her I hate the otter smell too, and I had other things to do besides do her job for her.”

“I said I’d even be willing to help with the cleaning for any other small mammals, but not the otters. But she insisted I help with the otters and said I was being insensitive to her needs.”

OP got their boss involved.

“In the end we got in a bit of a fight and our supervisor got involved and basically took her side and asked me if I could spare some time each day to clean the otter dens, and that this was part of giving ‘reasonable accommodation’ for her pregnancy…which I just didn’t think was fair. And now the coworker won’t speak to me.”


“tl;dr Pregnant coworker wants me to clean the otter dens for her every day because they stink so bad – I think they stink too – apparently I have to do it anyways.”

Redditors gave their opinions on the situation by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • NAH – No A**holes Here
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here

Most Redditors agreed OP was the a**hole.

“As a senior zookeeper I think I’ll go with YTA, though it’s close.”

“I’m not sure it’s fair that it’s always you who has to do her job for her, but as long as it’s not extending your shift…you’re still getting paid the same and helping other departments is part of your job.”

“You can’t be this affected by smells as a zookeeper, sorry. She’s pregnant so I guess she has an excuse, but you don’t.”

“If I ever heard of a new swing keeper / intern (who wasn’t pregnant) griping about otter odors…I’d be putting them on full 8-hour shifts cleaning up after them, collecting and analyzing fecal samples, etc, until they got over it.”

“(I’ve done this a couple times, with 2 interns who couldn’t stand the smell of the big cat night houses. 1 quit, 1 got over it after a few days)” ~ hocowp

“Lol I used to work with big cats at a large zoo, this reminds me of the days of awkward ‘all hands’ meetings where all the zookeepers would awkwardly stay close to others in their own department because they were the only people they could stand the smell of!”

“About 6 of us big cat keepers would sit at a table together – everyone else said we reeked like cat spray, but we couldn’t smell a thing.”

“Meanwhile I thought the primate keepers smelled like they’d never heard of a shower in the last 10 years, and I was always careful not to even get near the otter keepers because that ferrety fishy stench made me want to puke…but they insisted they smelled just fine!” ~ antwerq

Some had questions about the job in general.

“How do zookeepers date / have social lives if they smell this bad? I can’t imagine trying to find someone to go out with you if you constantly smell like a litterbox…” ~ nuqlick

“Lots of people date within their own industry because unique demands of certain jobs make it near impossible for ‘normal’ people to understand or be willing to deal with their prospective partners lifestyle.”

“Try dating a chef as a school teacher, for example.” ~ ApprehensivePaint657

“100% accurate. I’m a lawyer and my social circle slowly dwindled down after I started practicing so it now consists almost exclusively of other lawyers, bankers, and accountants, and most of us date/marry within those categories (my partner’s also a lawyer, for instance).”

“The shrinking social circle was not my choice, but it made me totally understand why it’s a thing to stick to socializing within your own or very similar industries.”

“My hours are borderline inhumane at times, and I personally have found that the only people who can put up with planning around my work schedule are the ones who also have to cancel plans regularly because “something urgent came up” 45 minutes before we were supposed to meet. :/”

“I feel like smelling overwhelmingly like a particular animal most of the time would have a similar social effect.” ~ pudgesquire

“I’m finding it interesting, as well.”

“I’m a female truck driver and trained other women for awhile to drive and most of them were going into it with the plan to team drive with a (usually romantic) partner. I always said I’d pass on that!”

“I dated an introvert for most of my career as a driver and that worked for us. The guy I’m dating now, I’d reconsider co-driving with, but he has no interest.”

“He’s a plumber.”

“We talk on the phone a lot and I visit him about every 6 weeks for a few days. Sure, it would be great to spend more time with him, but I get antsy when I’m in one place for too long!” ~ Beneficial_Cloud5481

Sounds like Reddit thinks the OP should suck it up and just help his coworker out.