#208 – A Murky Case of Discrimination

The prospective client who met with me this morning clearly wasn’t joking. Nonetheless, as interesting as his situation sounded, I didn’t think I could help him. But since I’m no maven on employment law, I said I’d refer him to an expert in the area for further consultation. I’ll do my best, yet I don’t expect anyone – expert or otherwise – to extract a viable case from this man’s circumstances.

When I first asked “Alfredo” to tell my why he needed legal representation, he asked: “Isn’t it illegal for an employer to discriminate against the handicapped?”

Since Alfredo exhibited no outward signs of physical impairment, I responded with a question of my own: “Why? Are you handicapped?”

“Well, a doctor told me I have a compulsion. Isn’t that the same thing?”

“I don’t know. What’s your compulsion?” I queried.

Alfredo matter-of-factly explained: “I need to take all my clothes off whenever I go to the bathroom, except for my shoes and socks of course.”

“Of course,” I disbelievingly echoed. “In your own home though, I presume.”

“There, and anywhere else I happen to be when nature calls.”

“Even when you pee?” I asked.

“Yep.”

Astonished, I sought further clarification. “You mean to say you stand naked at urinals in public bathrooms?”

“God no!” Alfredo insisted. “I’m not some perverted lunatic! In public, I always use the bathroom stall.”

“Naturally,” I agreed. “Did you get fired because of your ‘compulsion’?”

“Not exactly,” Alfredo conceded. “You see, last week I had to go while I was at work. We have a couple of unisex bathrooms meant for single users. Once I locked the door, I took off my clothes and left them on top of the sink while I went into the stall to do my business. I suppose the lock must’ve been broken though, because I heard the bathroom door open and close at one point. When I finished up, I found that all my clothes were gone! I never caught the jerk who took them either.”

“Wow! What happened next?” I inquired.

Alfredo continued his story: “I consider myself a conscientious employee. Since we were really busy at work, I couldn’t abandon my post. So I snuck out of the bathroom, covered myself as best I could, and went back to my job. That’s when I got fired. Do you think I have a case?”

I wasn’t sure of anything, yet. Before I ventured an opinion, I needed answers to a couple of additional questions: “Wait a minute. Didn’t you explain the situation to your boss?”

“Sure I did!”

“And what did he say?”

“He told me Board of Health rules require a restaurant’s chef to wear something more than an apron while cooking lunch.”

 
Suitable chef’s wear … when accompanied by shirt and pants.

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