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HUMAN RESOURCES

Would You Fire Someone For Snacking in the Office?
 

An Illinois company has issued a written warning to a woman caught eating Doritos at her desk.

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An office worker at a Peoria, Illinois, company has been disciplined for Doritos.

The woman, referred to in the Peoria Journal-Star only as "Babette," received a written warning for violating her office's policy of not eating at desks after she cracked open a bag of Doritos. The company fears crumbs and spills will damage computers – hence the policy – but Babette says other workers snack with impunity.

"Not whining about being in trouble for eating Doritos," she posted in online comments about the article. "40-50 other people a day eat at their desks and break other numerous 'office policies'....the office policy is for the whole office...not for just a chosen few."

Babette, who says she's never been disciplined before, was told: "Unless your behavior improves.... further corrective action, up to and including termination of your employment, may result."

The letter continued: "To help you meet all workplace expectations, I will continue to be available with appropriate coaching." It also reminded her of the company's employee assistance program, which helps employees for free with "problems which could adversely affect their personal and/or work life."

Babette's company isn't the only one that bans food – most call centers do. Others, such as a 10-person Alabama software company, forbid eating at desks. One online commenter said she "got in trouble for even having candy in my desk drawer." Companies say policies prevent vermin and damage to computer equipment, plus minimize danger of destroying important papers and make the office safe for food allergy sufferers. (For a discussion on banned foods in the workplace, click here and here.)

A UK study from recruitment firm Connections found only one in ten workers cleans their desk twice a year – and workstations are so dirty that workers would be better off eating in the bathrooms.

Another study turned the microscope on 33 computer keyboards, which had so much bacteria that a microbiologist actually recommended removing one because it was five times filthier than the toilet seat swabbed as a control. 

Do you have an office food policy? Ban certain foods from your office? Join the discussion at Ask Inc.

Last updated: Sep 22, 2010

Inc. contributing editor COURTNEY RUBIN was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.




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