"No Smelly Food in the Microwave." Is That Discrimination?

A Kantola Learning Minute

Complaints about smelly foods in the workplace can quickly escalate to involve national origin and discrimination. What guidelines and policies can you provide your workplace to avoid these? Find out in this Kantola Learning Minute with workplace trainer Linda Garrett, JD.

Hi, I'm Linda Garrett. We had an interesting question today about smells in the workplace, particularly smells coming from the microwave in the lunchroom.

It’s not a very easy problem to solve because it immediately is going to take you into the world of national origin discrimination. If you put a sign on the microwave that said, "Please do not heat curry in this microwave.", you're instantly going to run into problems, as you can imagine. And it's very subjective as to which foods in which ethnic meals smell good when they're heated and which ones bother other employees. So I see it is pretty much an all-or-nothing proposition. You're either going to solve the problem by removing the microwave and just letting employees know that they're going to be not heating their food in that particular lunch room anymore, or you're going to tell the employees who complain that they're going to have to be a little more tolerant and maybe open some windows, or take their lunch at a different time if it means making their life more pleasant. But, as I said, this is a very tough question and not at all easy to answer

Thanks for watching.

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