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Question: What are the statuses of the federal agencies impacted by the government shutdown?

As of October 1, 2013, the following federal agency activities impacting employment regulation are as follows:
  • Department of Labor:  Most of the DOL’s activities are curtailed, with only essential personnel in place.  Many of the Agency’s functions, as well as the sub-agency functions are on hold or suspended, with staff furloughed during this shutdown.
  • National Labor Relations Board:  The NLRB’s case handling and outreach efforts have been postponed, including elections, petition filing, and adjudication proceedings.The Office of Inspector General Hotline ( will be monitored for emergencies.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:  The EEOC will continue to ensure that deadlines for filing charges do not pass because of the shutdown.  However, during the shutdown, the EEOC will not be investigating charges, be open to the public and will put a hold on pending litigation.
  • Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs:  The OFCCP will be closed and the website will not be updated.
  • Occupational Safety & Health Administration:  OSHA will generally suspend most operations, including planned workplace safety inspections except for the functions relating to “emergencies involving the safety of human life or protection of property.” In addition, however, OSHA is recommending that anyone who needs to report a workplace fatality, hospitalizations, or an imminent danger situation to contact the toll free number at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742); TTY 1-877-889-5627 but the website is not being monitored.
  • Wage and Hour Division:  WHD will investigate “incidents involving serious injury or death of a minor while employed, or any transportation accident or housing safety violation involving the serious injury or death of a farm worker.”  Otherwise, it is shut down.
  • Employee Benefits Security Administration:  EBSA suggests that workers call their number at 202-693-8630 if they are covered by an employer-sponsored group health plan and need assistance with an urgent medical situation “which poses an imminent threat to human life or have knowledge of criminal activity that may result in the loss of their retirement, disability or health benefits.”
  • United States Customs and Information Services: All USCIS offices remain open, but the E-Verify program will be unavailable during the shutdown, meaning that employers may not enroll in E-Verify, verify employment eligibility or any of the other functions available through the E-Verify system.

Question: How would I counsel an employee whose body odor is affecting others in the workplace?

Dealing with hygiene issues is a very sensitive and difficult thing. It is best to approach the matter with sensitivity and to be as confidential as possible. Our best practice advice would be to recommend that either the employee’s supervisor or someone from human resources meet with the employee. Because this is an extremely sensitive issue and one that most likely will result in the employee being uncomfortable and embarrassed, the meeting should be held in a setting and manner that ensures privacy and confidentiality.

The following tips may be helpful when responding to the situation:

  • Stress that this is becoming a workplace disruption that must be dealt with
  • Consider that the employee’s diet or medication (or a medical condition) might be responsible for the problem but wait for the employee to suggest that – don’t ask questions about health conditions.
  • Know that the employee will be embarrassed and may not want to talk about it – if so, follow up with the employee after a few days to ensure that the employee is resolving the issue.
  • In the conversation, you may need to refer to the company’s dress and grooming policy and company expectations. Be compassionate but direct. Treat it as you would any other job-related performance issue. Explain what the problem is and the need to correct the problem. Be specific about expectations. Be prepared to deal with any rebuttals or denials.
  • Give the employee the opportunity to discuss the matter and to provide possible solutions.
  • If appropriate, make suggestions to improve personal hygiene, such as changing and laundering clothing more often, using deodorants, etc.
  • If the employee brings up a medical condition, be careful so as not to inadvertently cause any potential Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) implications. In the event that the employee states that there is a medical condition, reassure the employee that reasonable accommodations will be made. If the employee volunteers that the condition is medically related, ask for a physician’s certification in order to determine whether this is an ADA-protected disability and what, if any, reasonable accommodations need to be or can be made. (Source)

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