Can a boss tell subordinates to improve their personal hygiene?

February 27, 2019 - 3:30 am

By Amy E. Feldman, Judge Technology Solutions

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A University of Houston professor sent a letter to students telling them to please shower every morning and use deodorant.  

Many of the students felt the professor acted in a way they described as creepy, and found it inappropriate and full of microaggressions — or as Gen X calls it, get over yourselves. 

Who's right? Does the professor — or more relevant to most adults, the boss — have a right to comment on body odor or tell subordinates to shower?  

If your boss offers to shower with you, then yes, totally inappropriate and may be illegal. And where, as in the scenario, the professor did suggest that certain ethnicities eat spicy foods that lead to body odor, it certainly treads on stereotypes based on national origin, which could lead to claims of discrimination if he treated people differently.  

But if a boss sticks to the facts, it is expected that every person will maintain personal hygiene, including the wearing of clean clothes and maintaining personal cleanliness and good grooming. 

It's not illegal, and in fact is a service to other employees, even if some put up a stink.