HR Strange But True

Dirty Rats and Crazy Ants: Here’s Your Workplace Vermin Update

As you know, your HRSBT editors love animal stories. So here is one that’s not about dogs, goats, or monkeys (our usual favorites), but about what OSHA calls “vermin.”

Yes, in order to be compliant with federal law, workplaces must be constructed and maintained to prevent rodents, insects, and other vermin from entering. So we hope you are compliant, because you don’t want any of these critters in your workplace!

Our first report is enough to scare your entire IT department. The U.K.’s Daily Mail reports a breed of “crazy” ants is advancing from South America and crossing the border into our southern states. 

Reports say that when the invaders run out of their usual favorite foods, they start eating electronic components. When they eat through the insulation on wires and transformers and are electrocuted, their burnt bodies bizarrely emit a scent that attracts even more ants to be zapped to death. Even if they don’t short out the computer or copier, their bodies start piling up and make the hardware inoperable.

The good news is they don’t bite. The bad news is that standard antiant products are ineffective against these “computervors.”

However, “ants ate my computer” is a great excuse to get a sunny summer afternoon off.

And you’d better keep other insects and nasty rodents out of your workplace as well—or you could face a lawsuit as well as a citation.

An employee claimed her warehouse work area was infested with various vermin, so she asked for a reassignment to another job away from the “unhealthy” conditions, although the facility had been exterminated. 

The employee’s request was backed by a letter from her psychiatrist stating the worker had an anxiety disorder and that the rats were “incapacitating” her.  She requested to work from home, but this was denied because she was required to do on-site tasks.  So she took a leave and would not return to that facility. Unfortunately, there were no open positions in other facilities.

Then, when the employee did not get a promotion, she filed suit with the EEOC stating she was being discriminated against because of her aversion to rats and insects. However, there were no other positions other than in that warehouse for which she was qualified, and the warehouse could not be made completely vermin-free. So she was terminated, but we guess the rats couldn’t be.


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