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I am the male manager of a female employee who clearly stands up to urinate. She happens to be obese. I don't know her struggles and will not judge her, but clearly this is not the end-game solution. I did some research and found that breaking toilet seats can be a serious issue for some people, and that it can haunt a work place. My guess is that this is the case and that she stands up to prevent having that happen.

The problem is that there is urine all over everything. The seat, the hinges of the seat, the 'backboard', the wall/moulding, and a significant amount simply on the floor. This happens every time and I have been cleaning it up myself quietly for 3 months. This is the only women's restroom and is also used by customers.

We work in a very small business with no HR department and mostly males; she is the only one that uses that bathroom on a regular basis. I am male, I am her manager, and I have a very good relationship with her (joking about pretty much anything) but I still don't feel comfortable addressing this in person let alone via email.

So far, all I can think of is to send the softest email possible simply offering for us to purchase a better (heavy-duty) toilet seat for her, but I don't mean any offense...

I've seen posts about confronting females regarding bathroom etiquette, but I haven't found help that was for a male addressing a female and involving obesity reasons as well. I know damn well not to mention weight, but I want to be prepared with options for her to be comfortable.

This post is not a duplicate of How to deal with a toilet where a coworker constantly leaves urine on the rim?. This question deals specifically with a male addressing a female in a small business and with a possible obesity-related hygiene issue.

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    If you have a wall mounted toilet, then breakage is a real concern. Replace it with a toilet that rests on the floor, and make sure the new one is rated for a big number. Also install metal hand rails so if they need help getting up they can use them. – cybernard Dec 28 '16 at 2:44
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    Obesity most probably falls under ADA. The employer might have to remodel that bathroom to accommodate her condition. In fact, the employer should unless you, as the manager, want to put on your resume that you're making a second janitorial career out of cleaning up after her. – Vietnhi Phuvan Dec 28 '16 at 3:04
  • @VietnhiPhuvan I think it is and probably would be in this case (in that accomodations could be required. There's a good article here about it. kielichlawfirm.com/morbid-obesity-ada-disability – Chris E Dec 28 '16 at 15:57
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  • sure about that @JimG. ? This post indicates it is not a dupe of that q you suggested, and besides the genders are swapped in this situation, so different answers definitely apply. – DarkCygnus Feb 13 '18 at 18:58
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If you were her manager, what would you say to her?

If you are the manager, you must manage.

Find a quiet time to talk with her privately, and explain the problem as you see it. Ask her if your proposed solution (upgrading the toilet facilities) might help. Then listen to see if she agrees. Then act accordingly.

She may agree that the issue is the physical facilities. Or she may need other help, perhaps medical, that your company can provide. A discussion will help determine the best course of action.

Managers don't get to opt out of important discussions just because they don't feel comfortable. If you don't have an HR rep (seems like a mistake) and you aren't comfortable talking to a female employee individually, then perhaps you can recruit another female at an appropriate management level to sit in on the discussion. Perhaps there are no other female employees who can help. It doesn't matter - this is still your job. Your discomfort doesn't excuse you from being required to talk with her one way or the other.

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    I think part of OP's problem is he works for a small business, where I guess there aren't many (any?) female managers. I am interested to hear how you would suggest handling that situation. A male manager talking to a female subordinate about her toilet usage can be spun into problematic ways, which is what I guess the OP is worried about. – Masked Man Dec 28 '16 at 0:45
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    There are many women who will not sit on teh toilet seat due to ignorance about getting diseases from the toilet. This is a problem in virtually all public restrooms for women. Don't address whether she sits or not, it is none of your business, address the fact that she does not clean up after herself. If Clients use the same bathroom, then she needs to be aware that client complaints in this area will result in her being let go. – HLGEM Dec 29 '16 at 15:43
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    Joe -- the question was not whether I should manage the situation, or whether I should give in to my discomfort; a careful read explains that I am seeking information about HOW to go about the discussion with the only other female in the small company -- not how to avoid it. Your response amounted to "Deal with it correctly," which is the reason for which I am posting. MaskedMan is right. HLGEM is also right. I will stick to simply pointing out the issue and that I'm 100% on-board for finding any solution that she needs. Good point about the Client complains HLGEM. Thanks all – hawkboss Jan 9 '17 at 19:08
  • Can we all agree that an EMAIL humbly addressing the issue would be best solution between a male and a female in a 5 person company with no other females and no HR department? – hawkboss Jan 9 '17 at 19:10
  • Update: Just had the first sincere conversation, and exchanged some following emails initiated by them, and then another sincere, candid conversation with them. Honestly, I didn't think denial was such an option. – hawkboss Jan 10 '17 at 16:30
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Just ask her to clean up after herself.

This isn't rocket science, it had nothing to do with weight or toilet strength or anything like that.

Say something like "Hi Jane, this is really awkward to bring up but you might not know that we don't have janitors here. I, for whatever reason, clean up the male and female toilets, even though I'm also a manager. Our secretaries, interns, etc don't do this, nope, just me. Anyway, I've noticed that the female toilet can be a little unkept, especially around the toilet bowl area. If there is an issue let me know, but could you please help keep this area clean as our female customers use it too, and let me know if there is a need for it to be cleaned before you use it because, again, I double as the janitor here "

I'm taking some liberties. I happen to know from past experience - although in this case it was a male that was the problem, and I had other staff tasked with cleaning that complained, which was how I knew - that you won't get much through your dialogue before the person profoundly apologises and it never happens again.

It is extremely embarrassing for the peepee party to be told this, in my case the offending person didn't know or realise, probably in your case too.

You seem fixated on the weight aspect, you can add in a "is there any request you have for the bathroom in general", either during your conversation or, probably, a week after. A week after because, again, the initial conversation won't last very long.

  • This is the first thing that occurred to me. While I sympathize, and can even agree that a new toilet is in order, I have to ask whether her size makes her physically incapable of bending over to clean up. – Mawg Feb 13 '18 at 7:39
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I really can't say what your problem is. You have a blatant health and safety issue here. What you handle there is usually called a "biohazard". This is apparently caused by one person being massively overweight, and also by your toilet equipment not being suitable for that person.

A few phonecalls to companies producing toilets should find someone who can install a toilet that can handle a massive weight safely. I typed "toilet for 400 pound person" into google and found for example this.

http://forbigandheavypeople.com/extra-large-toilet-seats-for-heavy-people/

As it is, your company will never, ever be able to hire a second woman if you don't act.

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    Yeah, I did the same research. I'm just completely lost on how to bridge the gap between the information and her... – hawkboss Dec 28 '16 at 0:09
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    Joe -- I would definitely opt for spending the cash before the social awkwardness occurs, but I'm not sure if it's a weight or germ issue. It would be silly to have a $200 XXXL toilet seat in the customer bathroom if it doesn't help the situation, and it may offend her... – hawkboss Dec 28 '16 at 0:30
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    gnasher, you can delete your answer if you want to withdraw it, but you can't edit it into non-answer commentary. – Monica Cellio Dec 28 '16 at 2:23
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This might not be appropriate at all, and would probably work only if your toilets are single rooms (rather than larger public type bathrooms with cubicles/urinals within), which is likely since you're such a small company.

Why not make the toilets unisex? That way you could then put a "please leave the bathroom as you would like to find it" type notice in each one, and not be seen to be targeting one specific employee.

Edit

If you didn't want to change the toilet arrangements, you could still just send a politely worded email to the entire staff, asking that they leave the bathrooms - as in plural - in a clean condition.

There is no need for her to feel personally targeted then.

Remind them that customers use the toilets also (and therefore you need them pristine at all times) lest she think something like "Well I'm the only one using this one so who cares?"

  • That could be explained away by their being many male employees and only one female. Hmm, what about customers, though? Female customers might prefer segregated restrooms. – Mawg Feb 13 '18 at 7:41
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She stands up to pee because she doesn't want to sit on a dirty toilet seat. Lots of women "hover" when urinating for the same reason. It has nothing to do with her weight. Get some paper toilet seat covers, like they have in airports, although she might be using toilet paper.

Since customers use that bathroom, too, maybe it's your customers (or male employees sneaking into her bathroom) who are peeing on the seat, not her.

If you tell your employee that you want to upgrade the toilet because you think she's too fat, you will definitely be offending her.

  • Not sure, because it seems she is the only female employee in the company. – Adam Smith Feb 10 '18 at 23:12
  • That's a guess. Probably a good guess (+1), but it is phrased like a certainty. If you had started with the word "Perhaps", this would have been a better answer. As to offending her, perhaps it could be explained in terms of customers, since they already share the toilet. – Mawg Feb 13 '18 at 7:43
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    @Mawg "Hovering" over toilet seats, due to female squeamishness about a dirty toilet seat, is as much of an assumption about her behavior as assuming she hovers because she's overweight. Except that even women who are not overweight also "hover". If she is doing this, it is most likely because it's just "a thing" among women, not because she's overweight. Meaning, even if she was thinner she still might pee all over the seat because she's "hovering". If so, it seems likely that she's not convinced the toilet is clean enough for her to sit. – user70848 Feb 15 '18 at 1:01

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