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Clean up your act
July 03, 2014, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal

And you think your workplace has problems. Maybe it’s the coworker who consistently steals your well-marked food out of the community refrigerator. Perhaps its someone asking if you have a case of the Mondays. Could be the shoddy computer system. The eternal battle over the thermostat. Nobody ever placing the recycled paper the correct direction in the printer for reuse on the clean side. A distinct lack of deodorant use in the warmer months. That one person who never got the memo on what actually is appropriate workplace attire.

A million possibilities could be the thing that makes one wonder if the people surrounding them at desks and cubicles were actually raised by wolves although frankly even wolves would have imparted some sense of decency.

Whatever it is, it has probably got nothing on the Environmental Protection Agency. Recently, a memo was sent round the Denver office imploring its employees to — wait for it — stop using the office hallway as a bathroom. That’s right. The folks who are charged with regulating toxic dumps are apparently busy creating their own.

The internal email missive reported by, the news website for federal managers (and who even knew that existed?) cites “several” incidents in the building such as clogging the toilets with paper towels. Oh, yeah, and also “an individual placing feces in the hallway” outside the bathroom.

The you-know-what must be hitting the fan, not only over the actual mess but also the public airing of the EPA’s dirty laundry. The EPA also got attention when one of its attorneys claimed his workplace absences were because he traveled overseas as a CIA agent. Another filled his workday hours checking out pornography on his computer. But apparently neither is as troubling to EPA management as this recent spate of impropriety.

One assumes the situation is a bit of passive aggressive venting by a disgruntled EPA employee rather than someone not moving fast enough once their spicy lunch decides to fight back.

Now, ahem, that more vulgar term for stuff is really getting real. What we don’t know yet is the reason behind the childish behavior. Are they trying to wipe away years of intolerable conditions? Did the employee feel trapped under a pile of work? Is that regional office a wasteland of poor ideas and unmotivated masses? Was he or she frustrated at having never been promoted to number one or number two in the organization?

The powers that be go on in the memo to assure the staff they are taking the situation very seriously and will take whatever action is needed to identify the culprit behind the dirty deed. I dare say, they better. Accidentally stepping into a pile of waste is bad enough on one’s own lawn. Imagine feeling a squish underfoot heading down a workplace hallway.

EPA management has consulted with a workplace violence specialist but now they need to do more.

Obviously, the EPA has access to full government options which means it’s time for a full-on, National Security Agency-type investigation. Flip on the wire taps and keep the Edward Snowden wannabes at bay. Heck, take a page from the U.S. Postal Service and the Department of Homeland Security and stockpile ammunition. Environmental pollution means war and this is not the time to pooh-pooh the idea.

Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached at: or (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. Follow Michelle on Twitter @michellemdurand What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor:



Tags: workplace, office, hallway,

Other stories from today:

Clean up your act
Letter: Treasure Island
OP-ED: Getting real on prisons

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