In yet another foul development for the world’s workers, a court has ruled our bosses are allowed to fart in our general direction.

On Friday an Australian appeals court dismissed a bullying case brought by an engineer who said his former supervisor repeatedly passed gas around him. David Hingst blew the whistle on his supervisor’s toots but was denied $1.8 million Australian dollars in damages. The court ruled breaking wind doesn’t constitute breaking the law.

This is not what the world’s beleaguered workers want to hear. We’re losing our jobs to automation. We’re seeing our health care coverage erode. We have concert T-shirts older than our supervisors. And now they’re allowed to sidle right up to us and float air biscuits. Workers of the world, unite against punitive flatulence! (Incidentally, Punitive Flatulence would be a great name for a rock band. Imagine what the concert T-shirt would look – and smell – like.)

Defying the time-tested axiom that tells us “he who smelt it, dealt it,” Hingst sued over farts unleashed a decade ago. Now 56, he was working for an engineering firm in Melbourne in 2008-09 under supervisor Greg Short, whose gassiness prompted Hingst to move out of a communal office space.

Undeterred – and smelling like an undie turd – Short allegedly began entering Hingst’s small, windowless several times a day to let one rip. Short thought it was a real gas, but Hingst sued. He said he was bullied in the workplace until his job was eliminated.

“He would fart behind me and walk away. He would do this five or six times a day,” Hingst told reporters outside court. Hingst fought back by spraying Short, whom he nicknamed “Mr. Stinky,” with deodorant.

During an 18-day trial, Short told the court he did not recall passing gas in Hingst’s office, “but I may have done it once or twice.”

Hingst didn’t sue until 2017, but fortunately for him there is no statute of limitations on farts. He said Short’s behavior was part of a conspiracy to end his employment. Forget Area 51 for a minute, everybody, let’s get to the bottom of why this boss kept dropping booty bombs near David Hingst!

On Friday the Victoria Court of Appeal upheld a lower court’s ruling that even if the allegations were true, flatulence doesn’t constitute bullying. Hingst said he will take his case to the High Court, Australia’s final court of appeal. Lady Justice is blind, but she may have to set down her scale and pinch her nose shut for this one. And pity the High Court judges forced to examine briefs in this case.

The appellate court judges found Hingst “put the issue of Short’s flatulence to the forefront” of his bullying case, arguing that “flatulence constituted assaults.” The court found that Short did not bully Hingst. Apparently one must use more than his butt to harass.

The court also found Hingst failed to establish Construction Engineering was negligent. He worked for the firm as a contract administrator from May 2008 until April 2009. He argued he was bullied in the workplace until his job was terminated. Construction Engineering argued his job was eliminated because of a downturn in construction work due to the global financial crisis. Blame AIG, Lehman Brothers or butt trumpets, but clearly something here stinks.

So it goes these days for workers. As if we didn’t face enough hardships, now supervisors are allowed to cut the cheese on us whenever they please. It’s clear the justice system is turning a blind eye to workplace harassment. Apparently it’s pinching its nose, too.

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Ben Bromley is a columnist

for the Baraboo News-Republic.


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