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To be furious for being called out for menstruating at work?

559 replies

Snuffalo · 11/07/2017 15:04

Having horrible menstrual cramps, naproxen isn’t touching it, and I remember I have a hot water bottle in my 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.

Anyway. I fill the hot water bottle, nestle it in my lap, and I’m back to work. My sort-of-supervisor* we’ll call Guy comes over to talk to me about something, notices the hot water bottle, 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.

Less than ten minutes later, I get a Slack message from one of the HR admins (HR is based in another office a few hours away) to say “Guy says you’re not well and should go home, everything OK?”

I say “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.”

She goes silent and then offline completely, ten more minutes later, the HR Director calls me and asks me if I can find a meeting room, which I do. 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, 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!"

I’m just completely flabbergasted. Especially considering that Guy has been known to take meetings with clients whilst laying flat on the floor on his back because of back problems - which seems to me both unprofessional and likely to make people uncomfortable, not that I really cared personally. I wouldn’t have had my hot water bottle in a client meeting or even if clients were in the office.

Other people have standing desks, weird foot rests, all kinds of chairs and special backrests for their back pain and wrist braces for their wrist pain and a hundred other things and I’m not allowed to have a hot water bottle for my menstrual cramps? Am I right to be completely fucking furious?

*I normally have no problem with Guy, we don’t work closely, no one else does what I do at work but he comes closest and he does my nominal (and always positive) performance reviews and signs off on my holiday.

OP posts:
EmpressOfTheSpartacusOceans · 11/07/2017 15:51

Surely the resulting comments from HR is some kind of gender discrimination?

Sex discrimination. This is about being a biological female, not about identity nonsense.

HoldBackTheRain · 11/07/2017 15:51

But seriously your HR is outrageous for entertaining Guy's fear of your period pains. What a fucking liberty. Sorry if you've already answered this, but are you in a union? If so, contact them. Let's just hope they're more understanding of menstrual cycles than HR!

TwoBobs · 11/07/2017 15:51

What about the possible discomfort you felt having to explain why you had the hot water bottle?

FuckYouLinda · 11/07/2017 15:53

HR are being ridiculous. Please keep us updated on how you respond to them.

Crunchymum · 11/07/2017 15:54

I'd be inclined to go home and take a few days off every month as to "not make anyone uncomfortable"

(provided you get paid of course!!)

PeppaPigTastesLikeBacon · 11/07/2017 15:54

Guy is a dick. I have hot water bottles at work for my arthritis pain. It's an easy thing to have without taking anything.

I don't think naproxen would be good for cramps. It's an anti inflammatory. Maybe try something like paracetamol or cocodamol (you can take them along side naproxen). I hope your cramps pass. They can be horrid!

GoonBridge · 11/07/2017 15:55

Poor Guy, I bet he has seen some of the threads on here and doesn't know how to react.

Yeah, right Hmm so he chooses to massively over react and recoil in horror at the thought of a bleeding vagina.

He will positively keel over and die when he finds out how children are born, poor bloke.

TwoBobs · 11/07/2017 15:55

Sounds like HR have made a mountain out of a molehill.

coddiwomple · 11/07/2017 15:56

What about the possible discomfort you felt having to explain why you had the hot water bottle?


If you cannot even mention innocently a hot water bottle without someone getting their knickers in a twist, you cannot possibly wonder why the poor guy went straight to HR to deal with the issue...

PeppaPigTastesLikeBacon · 11/07/2017 15:56

I wonder what he would do if he saw you take a tampon out of your draw to use 🙀🙀

coddiwomple · 11/07/2017 15:57

so he chooses to massively over react and recoil in horror at the thought of a bleeding vagina.

I didn't read the story as a guy horrified by periods, but more very wary of the subject with a woman at work! Reading the posts on here, he was right to stay well out of it.

1bighappyfamily · 11/07/2017 15:58

(Peppa I was prescribed naproxen years ago for cramps - it's very very very good)

I work in HR. Go to the HR Director's boss. That is not acceptable.

Topseyt · 11/07/2017 16:00

Coddi, he didn't stay out of it. He went to HR and told them how uncomfortable it made him feel and how unprofessional the OP was.

RhodaBorrocks · 11/07/2017 16:01


Can you imagine old Guy's face in that situation?? "Oh, no, I don't have my period, it's just vicious case of diarrhoea!" Grin

"Oh don't worry Guy, I have the shits. But hey as long as I'M NOT BLEEDING!"

Why do I get the impression he's one of those men who compare menstruation and breastfeeding to men pissing and shitting in public?

IloveBanff · 11/07/2017 16:01

The OP didn't even mention "shocking" words like period or menstruation FFS. All she said is that the hot water bottle was for pain relief when Guy queried her having it! So ridiculous.

HSMMaCM · 11/07/2017 16:03

I think Guy was taken a bit by surprise and then tried to be nice by suggesting to HR you could go home for the rest of the day. HR were being ridiculous.

SewMeARiver · 11/07/2017 16:03

What utter arseholes. But I'm not suprised. I have weird looks at work for taking extra toilet time during my heavy periods. Sometimes I have had to spell out to my supervisor that I must use the loo. Then (usually he, but sometimes even the odd female supervisor) looks horrified, like I just told them about my diarrhoea or something, not something perfectly natural that their mothers, girlfriends, sisters, daughters and wives have either all or yet to experience. It really is discriminatory. I find myself in locations where no provision has been made to ensure toilets are nearby and readily accessible. I have asked my co workers and virtually all of them are on the pill and have light periods so I look like I'm making a big fuss over nothing.

Benedikte2 · 11/07/2017 16:03

Well when I was employed by a Local Authority we were supposed to have a fitness to return to work interview after a period of sick leave. Can you image how the interview would go if you took sick leave every time you menstruated? Women who work closely together are sai to co-ordinate their cycles. In organisations employing mainly women, imagine the chaos.
I think I'd delay menopause just for the chance to work a 3 week month. No more requesting leave for special events -- just have an unexpected period.
Too many of us to threatened to employ males only.

M0stlyBowlingHedgehog · 11/07/2017 16:03

I would definitely get it in writing.

What "medical conditions" are you allowed to mention/not allowed to mention at work? (Give them a list - hay fever, colds, IBS, period pains, tennis elbow etc. as suggested above).

Can they confirm in writing that you were sent home because you mentioned to a colleague (who asked) that you were in pain (no reason for the pain given), and ask them to explain why they thought this was a proportionate reaction on their part?

Can they confirm in writing that this was because the colleague was embarrassed on realising that the pains in question were period pain?

Ask whether they are authorising you to take an extra 3 days sick leave a month without threat of disciplinary sanctions (given that you can perfectly adequately perform your job during those days, provided you are allowed to manage the pain in reasonable ways).

Then take their response to an employment lawyer and sue the bastards for sex discrimination. Or enjoy your extra 3 days off a month, whichever appeals to you more.

They are being total dicks, and Guy needs to be handed some smelling salts and told to get a grip.

IloveBanff · 11/07/2017 16:03

"Coddi, he didn't stay out of it. He went to HR and told them how uncomfortable it made him feel and how unprofessional the OP was."

Precisely. Idiotic man, and yet they took him seriously and actually added to the stupidity.

littlebrownbag · 11/07/2017 16:04

Buscopan. It's bloody marvellous stuff that works on both period cramps and IBS cramps. Can't recommend it enough.

I've noticed that some men can deal with "injuries" but not "illness", so a broken ankle wouldn't cause them to go green, but anything that may ultimately involve bodily fluids causes a rapid retreat. Sounds like "Guy" is one of them. So is my DH - he wouldn't report to HR but he'd run away and Never Talk Of It Again.

coddiwomple · 11/07/2017 16:04

I completely agree with him. If he had ignored a colleague in pain, needing a hot water bottle to ease it, he would have got in trouble too.
Seriously, the boss cannot win. He did the right thing.

HR on the other hand did not!

coconutpie · 11/07/2017 16:05

What the actual fuck did I just come read??!!

Complain to whoever that hr director reports to.

coddiwomple · 11/07/2017 16:07

I am female, and I would be very uncomfortable to see a one of my subordinate doubled up in pain with a hot water bottle! It sounds perfectly reasonable to involve HR and not go into private details yourself. What exactly do you expect the boss to do?
Please do not say ignore, because said boss will get in trouble or be complained against for ignoring.

user1467718508 · 11/07/2017 16:08

It's HR's fudging job to know how to deal with misogynists like Guy Angry

If it were me, I'd not want him as my sort-of-supervisor anymore. He's made it awkward, not you!

Please do take it further - beyond your inept HR department.

I need a tall glass of something strong after reading that. Absolutely reeling for you!

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