A woman recently took to an online forum to describe how a male colleague reported her to human resources for having her period at work — and how, shockingly, it appears that HR sided with him.
The woman, known as Snuffalo on Mumsnet, wrote how she was having horrible menstrual cramps one day at work. Pain relievers weren’t helping and she remembered she had a hot water bottle in her desk drawer.
“I used it all winter in my freezing office, and a few other people, male and female, have one as well – we have a rule against personal space heaters so it can be nice to have under your desk next to your feet,” she wrote in her post. She says she filled the hot water bottle and nestled it in her lap before continuing work.
“My sort-of-supervisor, we’ll call him ‘Guy,’ comes over to talk to me about something, notices the hot water bottle, and says ‘there’s no way you’re cold today, are you?’ I say ‘um, no, just for the pain relief.’ He looks confused and then literally horrified and then he walks away.”
A few minutes later, Snuffalo says she received a chat message from an HR admin that stated: “Guy says you’re not well and should go home, everything OK?”
She says responded: “I’m fine, this is sort of weird, he just looked a bit shocked that I had a hot water bottle, I’ve got cramps, you know how it is.”
The HR rep went silent and then offline completely, wrote Snuffalo. Minutes later, the HR director called and asked if she could find a meeting room so they could talk privately. Since HR was based in another office a few hours away, the following rebuke took place by phone.
“She then tells me that I shouldn’t disclose my medical problems to anyone who isn’t part of HR as it can make them uncomfortable. I’m literally shocked, I explain exactly what happened (and) she says ‘Yes I understand, if you’re so unwell you need a hot water bottle you should be home. Guy is extremely uncomfortable and it’s unprofessional.’ I say ‘This is weird, OK, anything else?’ She’s quite breezy and professional – ‘No, that’s all, if you’re feeling better that’s great but if you need to, please do go home, OK bye!'”
Snuffalo is understandably furious at how this went down and says that Guy has been known to take meetings with clients while laying flat on the floor because of back problems.
“(This) seems to me both unprofessional and likely to make people uncomfortable,” she noted. “I wouldn’t have had my hot water bottle in a client meeting or even if clients were in the office.”
She adds that other coworkers have standing desks, foot rests, special chairs, wrist braces and backrests for their ailments. “And I’m not allowed to have a hot water bottle for my menstrual cramps?” Although she doesn’t work closely with Guy, she says he does her (always positive) performance reviews and signs off on her holidays. So this incident was strange, to say the least.
“Am I right to be completely f—ing furious?”
Snuffalo’s post quickly went viral, receiving hundreds of supportive responses within days — with many placing the blame on HR.
“He’s ridiculous. HR is ridiculous. Most women menstruate. It’s a perfectly normal body function. My coworker complains every month to me about cramps. They both need to grow up.”
“OMG! That is bloody ridiculous (no pun intended). That guy overreacted like an immature 12 year old! HR were ridiculous too. I feel your pain today.”
“Why on earth have HR even entertained what this ‘Guy’ has said?! I’d have thought it should have come via your line manager, certainly not HR. I’d have questioned them on it as in ‘you seriously want me to take sick leave for menstrual cramps?!’ Bizarre.”
Some even suggested she retaliate with a formal complaint.
“Do you have a complaint process for HR? If not go straight to your CEO and explain you experienced sex discrimination from your head of HR as you were called out on having menstrual cramps when other colleagues have had their illnesses brushed over. Document it all.”
“Ancient Greeks used to believe that women’s periods could control the weather and summon storms. Maybe Guy is afraid of thunder? In all seriousness, Guy and HR need to sod off. Periods are not a medical condition (as my old PE teacher used to tell me when I tried to skive cross country). Have you got a complaints procedure to follow?”
What do you think she should do?