Listen up, everyone at work right now. Maybe this feels like it might be a good time to take a break, head to the bathroom and rub one out. But before you do, I want you to ask yourself a couple of questions.
- How quiet am I?
- Is it worth getting my ass fired if the answer turns out to be not very?
A company is justified in firing a unionized employee for masturbating in a bathroom stall at work, a labour arbitrator in Nova Scotia has ruled.
The arbitrator concluded that the employer, an aerospace firm operating hangars at the Halifax airport, had just cause to terminate the employee because his colleagues could hear what he was doing, and it caused “embarrassment and distress” in the workplace. The employee had also been warned about his behaviour two years earlier.
Arbitrator Gus Richardson was asked to decide whether the act of loudly masturbating in a stall justified discipline and termination, and whether a bathroom stall is a sufficiently private place.
“On this point I accept that there is nothing illegal about masturbation,” he wrote. He said the problem is the employee violated the privacy and sense of personal decorum of his co-workers, and ignored warnings to stop. “He instead conducted an activity that he knew (and certainly ought to have known) would and did cause embarrassment and distress to his co-workers once they became aware that he was doing it in close proximity to them.”
The employee testified that he masturbated in one of four stalls in a hangar bathroom, but only when there was nobody in a stall next to him. He maintained that he never made noises and kept his phone on silent if he was watching videos, but the arbitrator rejected that claim.
“I do not accept the grievor’s testimony that he made no sounds while performing this activity,” Richardson wrote. “Obviously if that were true no one would have known that he was doing it. But people did know. They could only have known about it because they could hear it.”
A manager told the employee there were complaints about noises in the bathroom, such as “breathing heavily, making erratic movements and moaning,” and said management was concerned for the employee’s well-being. They told him that if he had a serious medical issue, he should alert human resources.
Maybe I’m the only one, but I’ve read the line about notifying human resources like 5 times now and it’s not getting any less funny.
Along with insisting that he wasn’t being loud, the employee also argued both that he had a sex addiction that constituted a disability and that he wasn’t sufficiently warned that there was a problem because instead of coming right out and saying “Hey Bob, put your dong away, would ya?”, management spoke euphemistically about things like the odd noises he was accused of making.
Unfortunately for him, those arguments either fell on deaf ears or were drowned out by all the moaning.
“Masturbation is not a topic of conversation about which people feel comfortable discussing openly,” he wrote. “That, plus concerns about privacy, would make any attempt to discuss it personally embarrassing and likely to result in the use of euphemisms. Even if … discussion with the grievor was couched in terms of ‘unusual noises’ I am satisfied that both knew exactly what was being discussed — and that it was an activity that was causing concern amongst the grievor’s co-workers and ought to be stopped.”
It’s probably best to come right out and say what you mean if you’re telling someone about allegations being made against him, but yes, any reasonable person, especially one who says he always takes steps to be discreet while doing whatever that thing is that he doesn’t understand, should know what folks are getting at over the course of more than one talking to.