HR Management & Compliance

You’re the Expert: We’ve gotten mutliple complaints about a worker’s hygiene. What should we do?

We’ve gotten multiple complaints about a worker’s hygiene. He’s a good employee, and we don’t want to offend him, but people have asked to be moved away from his cubicle, and one has even threatened to quit. What should we do?

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Here’s what you had to say:


  • Rather than moving other employees, might you be able to move this employee to another, less trafficked part of the office? If he’s a good employee, you might even be able to give him a larger, more private space and couch it as a perk.
  • We had to deal with a similar situation, and head-on is the only way to do it. Be sensitive and explain the problem in a nonaccusatory way. Ask the employee if he has any ideas for possible solutions to the problem. Don’t forget that the ADA might come into play, if there’s some undiagnosed medical condition that is causing the employee’s B.O. He might even be depressed, leading to a lack of interest in hygiene (and depression itself can sometimes be covered under the ADA).
  • I would treat this as you would any violation of, say, the company dress code. You should tell the employee that this problem is occurring and that he will have to rectify it if he wants to continue working for you. You should be direct with the employee in working towards a solution. If another employee complains to you in the interim, explain that you appreciate him telling you and that you will handle the issue with the discretion and sensitivity it requires. Don’t volunteer the information that other employees have also complained. You don’t want to encourage office gossip about this.