Safety and OSHA News

Co-worker’s perfume made her sick: Is company liable?


A woman who claims she was disabled by a co-worker’s perfume can move forward with her workers’ comp lawsuit.

Doris Sexton sued the Cumberland Manor nursing home, claiming perfume sprayed by her co-worker left her permanently disabled and unable to work.

She said the co-worker sprayed perfume near her at least three times on one day.

Sexton had a chronic lung condition that resulted from smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 43 years. She claims the perfume made her illness worse.

A lower court in New Jersey ruled that her reaction to the perfume didn’t arise out of her employment.

Should the company have to pay?

But an appeals court said her employer can be held liable because the exposure happened at work.

The court said, “The air Sexton had to breathe in order to fulfill her contract of service, contaminated by a co-employee, was a condition of the employment for Sexton and thus a risk of this employment for her.”

Now the case goes back to the lower court for trial to determine whether Sexton will receive comp payments.

Since the perfume incident, Sexton has been largely dependent on an oxygen tank to breathe and has been unable to work, according to her lawyer.

She was hospitalized on the day of the incident, where she stayed for almost a month.

Robert Malestein, a lawyer representing Sexton’s former employer, said, “If you tell people that this is a woman with a chronic medical condition who smells some perfume and gets sick, should people have to pay for that?”

What do you think of this case? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

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  1. In reading this my question would be: did Sexton tell her employer that she had a condition that would become worse by having perfume sprayed in her vicinity? If so, the employer could request that such substances not be sprayed in her area (reasonable accommodation).

    Also, assuming that the spraying of perfume could cause this reaction (which seems doubtful), would not Sexton have a sensitivity to cleaning fluids, disinfectants, etc. that would be present in a nursing home? Again, this should have been communicated to the employer at the time of hire so the employer could make necessary arrangement to limit her exposure.

  2. Virginia Cullipher, RN says:

    As one who also cannot tolerate perfume, I can understand-SOMEWHAT. A person with her medical history should never have been hired into an environment that is as laden with artificial odors as a nursing home. More details have to be known about the alleged incidents-was the other employee doing this on purpose because she knew about her breathing problems, was it on herself or on a patient, how did management handle it? The employer may be liable for aggravation but not her long term disability. Clearly an investigation into the claimanat’s motivation when hired should be done too.

  3. Jim Hudson says:

    If this individual had a pre-existing medical condition that was not privy to the employer, the employee needs to be held accountable however, HIPPA laws also may protect employees from divulging medical conditions that sometiomes hamper employers.

  4. Lana Wiedrich says:

    She should blame herself for contaminating her body for so many years with cigaretts. She created her own illness by smoking. This is a prime example of society that isn’t taking responsibility for their own actions. Our of age society have become blame transferes at every angle and its the laws that are permitting such an act of defiance..

    What I read is that its OK for her to kill herself with cigaretts but if someone else creates a uncomfortable situation in her invironment then its not OK.

    But, in her defense of annoying perfume wearers….take note that perfume should be used at a minimum or not at all in the office. It is not the employers fault that she created a hazard for her own lungs prior to the over user of perfume (Whom obviously does not have a self inflicted lung issue)

  5. “Sexton had a chronic lung condition that resulted from smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 43 years. She claims the perfume made her illness worse.”
    No way should a company be liable for a pack-a-day habbit of 43 years because someone CLAIMS aggravation. I am sure just about anything other than pure oxygen would aggravate the womans condition. If this law suit fails, is she next going to file suit against the county she lives in due to the exhaust from the vehicles around her while sitting in traffic. If that fails, maybe she can try the fishy smell at the seafood counter at her grocery store of choice. Give me a break. It is sad that someone would even file a suit such as this against a company willing to provide an income for them and their family and even sadder that our court system would waist time and money entertaining such a case.

  6. This is what is destroying our judical system and giving good lawyers a bad name!

  7. When are people going to take responsibility for their own actions! I am sick of people trying to get money when they are responsible. Who held her down for 43 years and stuck a cigarette in her mouth – the nursing home- I don’t think so. Who gave her the chronic lung condition – I guess she had nothing to do with it. Was this the first time that perfume was used in the nursing home? Did she tell her supervisor that she could not work if those conditions? Was this the first time perfume was used in the home when she was around? After the first spray did she go to her supervisor and request a change in assignment? That’s what wrong with this country (which I love); too many irresponsible people wanting someone/something to bail them out of their own destructive behavior.

  8. She smokes for 43 years and she has the nerve to blame someone else for her pulmonary condition. How sad. She is just looking for someone else to help pay her medical bills. The incident should be investigated to see the extent of any possible exposure. Spraying the perfume “near her” leaves a lot of wiggle room. If she was in a non-ventilated area, I could see a possible effect.
    A “bad” lawyer will be able to get her something, unfortunately.

  9. I guess everybody is looking for a bailout?

  10. D Hanscom, CIT says:

    I suffer from asmtha and am blessed (and cursed) with a sensitive sense of smell. Strong perfumes aggravate my asmtha and give me a headache among other issues. Aggravation of an existing condition is possible but made it worse, come on (especially after what appears to be a single day’s exposure). Maybe I’m a cynic but after smoking for 43 years, isn’t possible that her condition may worsen anyway.

    While this woman’s condition is private, she had a responsiblity to her own health and safety to inform the employer. Had the employer not taken action to address this situation when brought to their attention it could have left them liable at that point. It does not make sense that the employer is liable for something that they were not given the opportunity to make right.

    OSHA says that an employer must provide a workplace free from recognized hazards. Is heavy perfume use a recognized hazard? Even if a hazard assessment were conducted of the workplace, a person’s perfume use would not have been identified.

    As both of the previous posts mention, this woman had a pre-existing condition and given the environment where she would work, ultimately, she would not be able to function within the position given all of the odor chemicals and odors that exist. Had a pre-employment physical been completed? If not, shame on the employer.

    If the court awards this person, this will make a safety department’s more challenging by forcing us to look beyond recognized hazards.

    My last question is what is she asking for in the lawsuit? This may reveal her motivation.

  11. This is quite obviously a very serious reaction to commonplace environments. If such a condition existed, this employee should have informed their employer of the condition. You cannot expect the employer (or the person using the perfume) to know what normal, commonplace subtleties could be damaging to this person.

    If the employee (Sexton) did in fact inform their employer of this condition, the company should be liable. As in another responders comments, I have to agree that such a person should never have been hired into this type of atmosphere. I also think the employee should be somewhat liable for voluntarily entering into such a (to her) hostile environment.

  12. K. Erickson says:

    What happened to being responsible adults? What kind of message does this send to our youth that working is fine, but finding a way to get paid for not working is better?

  13. steve limbach says:

    If her medical condition was disclosed to the employer, i would assume that the employer should have put her in a job with a very well controlled environment. However, if the employee did not disclose her medical condition, it would be hard to cite the employer for putting her at risk, when her condition was not known.
    If the other employee exposed her, maliciously, knowing of her breathing problems, I would think it would be appropriate to go after the employee,..not the company,..for damages or criminal charges.
    It does seem very strange that the employee would have sought out this type of work and/or been hired to perform it, some details seem to be missing !!

  14. Steven Ortega says:

    Did Doris Sexton allow the other employee to continue to spray the perfume without notifying her of her condition? Did Doris seek out assistance from management in this matter when it initially happened? Should she have been in that position in a facility of that type? The odor from disinfectants can be and usually are far more powerful than perfume.

  15. Steve Jonker says:

    I think she is suing the wrong party. I think she should sue whoever ignored the warning on the cigarette package which caused her underlying condition!

  16. If you make the assumption that the employer knew of this woman’s intolerance to fragrances and did nothing to protect against exposure in the work environment, they are definitely liable.

    If they had no such knowlege, then NOT liable.

    Does the victim in this case walk around in public wearing a haz mat suit or what? She could be exposed anywhere, but it just so happened that she was at work at the time. She knows what a golden goose looks like.

  17. The spraying of perfume did not create her medical condition. It was her own personal habits that created this medical condition. :: “Sexton had a chronic lung condition that resulted from smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 43 years. She claims the perfume made her illness worse.”:: Had she quit smoking in order to stop the progression? Maybe, if she had, then she was working on correcting a situation, but it still does not mean that the other employee, or the employer, was at fault for her problem. If she steps outside the courthouse during a break for a cigarette, then she should definitely not win anything on account of her being an idiot. If she quit smoking before this incident occured, that would be acknowledgement of a medical condition that should have been brought to her employer’s attention. If she failed to do that, she also should not win any lawsuit. I understand that HIPAA regulations state that medical knowledge is private information between a doctor and patient, but you also cannot hold someone accountable if they had no knowledge of such a condition.

    The only way Doris should win this lawsuit is under the following conditions: 1) She can prove that she quit smoking within a reasonable amount of time of being diagnosed with the lung condition, and 2) That she attempted to inform someone above her in the chain of command that she had this condition and had special needs associated with it, or at the very least the fact that she was physically aggravated by the perfume.

  18. R Raypole says:

    Sexton should have notified the employer of her sensitivity to solvents /smells. The background of the interaction with the other employee will definately be a factor. I would find it hard to believe that this incident would expose an employer for long term disability thru worker’s comp.

    There is obviously more to the story than the summary overview. This will be an interesting case.

  19. Uzal Taylor says:

    As a chronic asthmatic, I can understand this woman’s frustration. Most of us work daily in close proximity to fellow employees who believe that it is their right to inundate themselves with their favorite scent or worse yet, to use it as a substitute for basic personal hygiene. The considerate thing to do in our ever-shrinking work environments is to wear as little perfume/cologne/body spray as possible so as not to overwhelm the already recycled air we must breathe. One must ask if the co-worker knew of this woman’s condition and chose to ignore it or deliberately decided to harm her. Also, was the employer aware that this was a potential problem? If the other parties had knowledge of the potential deleterious effects of this woman being exposed to a co-worker’s personal scent choice, she should receive compensation.

  20. Keith Pease says:

    Trying to hold an employer responsible for the air breathed by an employee in a “happen stance” occurance is a condition not controllable by the employer and pretty much ridiculous. Did the irratation even present itself while at work or was it determined after the claimant had left the property? Assuming the claimant can scientifically identify the perfume as the only reasonable trigger – exactly what control over the release of the perfume could the employer reasonably expect to exercise? Controlling the cologne/perfume choice of employees is certainly unreasonable. I find it rather odd that this occurred 3 times in a day in a “work area”. Sould an employer be responsible for the private acts of their employees in the rest room? Hold the employer responsible for controllable work conditions such as proper ventilation and storage… but who applies which perfume/cologne where is not the employers responsibility. Nothing in the info provided indicates this is an ongoing problem with a specific employee that created a situation needing preventive action. It appears this was a random occurance of chance that may have occured in a mall, elevator, movie theater, or workplace. It would be similar to the allergic reaction of a bee sting from the delivery of flowers to a patient (or reaction to the fragrance of the flowers for that matter). I can see no “reasonable” adjudicator ruling in favor of the claimant. The lower court got it right!

  21. Dale Hoover says:

    It appears, on the surface, that Sexton is not taking any responsibility for her own health! If she told her co-worker about her problem and they sprayed the perfume in spite of her request, she still is not chained to her desk. She could have left the area. If she had to do so, the proper action would be to inform her supervisor of the problem after the FIRST incident not after she went to the hospital. If she did inform her supervisor and nothing was done, then she may have a legitimate case. However, do we, as a society, allow her to blame the disability on 3 puffs of perfume spray and have no responsibility for the 43 YEARS of smoking? At worst, she should be found to have contributed to the disability.

  22. MR. Safety says:

    You should know the saying. If you hire an employee with a bad knee. You just inherited the knee. IF the employee hurts that knee while at work, you just paid for it. Any time an employee is hired, you not only hire the person, but all the problem that come with himher. Yes HIPPA laws do protect the employee. There are many ways to get around a lot of it. I would hate to be the safety manager in charge of this case.

  23. Dave Burnworth says:

    This is one reason many employers have policies addressing the use of colognes/perfumes. As much as I hate to say this, I suspect the employer in this case may well be liable for the “injury” sustained by the employee. However, I would love to see the medical necessity documentation for the employee’s oxygen. There are strict criteria (most insurers follow Medicare guidelines) that must be met in order to place the patient on oxygen. One could possibly argue that her lung disease had naturally progressed to the point that she would have required oxygen therapy reagrdless of the “exposure” at work. It would be more difficlut though if they can point to the exposure as being concurrent with her worseing lung health.

  24. I would have to ask if this lady said anything to her co-worker about not spraying the perfume near her. If she didn’t and the co-worker had no idea it could cause a problem, then I don’t see how this case can be entertained. If she did say something and the co-worker did it intentionally, then I can see a case but it should be handled by the employer and not a court of law. What about personal responsibility? It seems we don’t need that any more these days because we can always find someone else to blame for our problems. Her underlying condition was caused by her own doing (smoking for many years) and not the employer. The perfume aggravated the condition but didn’t cause it.

  25. Hender YC says:

    Should her employer be responsible? No. Hypothetically, if Ms. Sexton was in any public place and this happen would the owner or even an individual be responsible? I think not because there is other illness that cause a reaction in a person as well. Just like being around second hand smoke when you don’t smoke. Should I get workers comp if the smoke makes me sick? Secondly was Ms. Sexton aware that the perfume would make her sick? If yes, then she has an obligation to ask the person to please not to spray because it would or could make her sick. Why would you even allow someone to spray three times around you if you can get sick? There so many other factors to consider in the case. It is a misfortune that Ms. Sexton has this illness. God Bless

  26. Jim Kitchens says:

    Many perfumes contain materials that in other settings are considered toxic. That she was exposed to the actual spray rather the post application odor is significant and will probably determine the extent of liability, if her legal council is sharp.

  27. Bob Browning says:

    In my mind her chosen lifestyle put her in this predicament. Her health suffered long before this exposure. What about people with asthma? With some individuals asthma can be triggered with such exposures. Do we blame the employer for this? If an individual has a preexisting condition it’s their responsibility to inform an employer so necessary arrangements can be worked out. Then again, should an employer even have to make such arrangements? If a person chooses to destroy their own health why should an employer be held hostage? Life is about choices and obviously this person made the wrong ones. The perfume may have been a catalyst for her reaction but it certainly wasn’t the root cause of her problems.

  28. Depends on employee telling employer about her problem and employer informing others to be cognizant of situation.

  29. Did the employee inform the employer of the situation and give them the opportunity to correct it?
    I am one of those people who absolutely cannot stand overbearing perfumes/colognes, and have myself gone home with a headache from the secretary’s perfume.

    Perfumes/colognes should not be allowed in the workplace, or at least used in moderation. I don’t want to walk down the hall and know from the smell who has been there recently.

  30. Depends on whether employee informed employer of special needs or complained about Ms. Perfume and employer did nothing.

  31. Marcia Lansdowne says:

    The employee SHOULD have reported the incident(s) to her employer. If she didn’t then the employer should NOT be responsible. Employers are not mind readers.

  32. S. Marquardt says:

    Some people are too sue-happy. The company should turn around and counter-sue her for attorney fees. If it was mandatory and when there is a civil suit, the loser pays all attorney fees for both sides, there will a lot less bogus lawsuits.

  33. I am sure that I am not the only one reading this, Wondering”what next?” Granted there are law’s and regulation in place to protect employer’s and employee alike, at what point will people take responsibility for themselves? this lady for example, wether or not she informed her employer due to HIPPA laws, apparently she was aware of her personal illness or situation. the other person apparently practicing good hygene or personal grooming habbits would not know that she or he was offending someone or aggrivating a current condition unless they were informed. It is my opinion that people who make these kinds of claims are like peolpe who would hide behind a tree waiting for an on comming vehicle to jump out in front of it. no notice of thier intentions just a means a drawing a check. The unknowing employees, employer or tax payers who have to pay workers compensation are the ones who suffer from these types of claims. I feel sorry for those who really deserve workers comp. will there ever be an end to stupidity and fraudulent claims?

  34. William Bates says:

    Before court hears this case and waste tax payers money the court needs to order an investigation. Did the woman ever complain about the perfume odor to her supervisor? Are they for sure the perfume is the cause of her health condition at the present time? She could be intaking something from her house that causes her problems, for instance moled in a house, exhaust fumes from a heater or automobile. I just have a hard time believing perfume made her condition worse. Once the investigation is complete and if it comes back that the perfume didn’t hinder the ladies health condition then make her pay all cost of the investigation. If courts would explain about investigations and make respondents responsible for cost if a negative report comes back, you would have fewer law suits like this one.

  35. If this indeed goes through,it is going to open up a virtual Pandora’s box that will trickle through every workplace.Manufacturing,Health Care,Department stores(those more than obliging sales people who insist on spraying their wares right in front of you as you walk by),Health Care Facilities,office workers-shall I go on?Today more often than not we hear about people seriosly abusing the SYSTEM,from suing McDonald’s over hot coffee to tying up our Legal System arguing over prayer in school,the Pledge of Allegiance,or wishing someone Merry Christmas,then suing saying it is causing mental duress,PLEASE.This woman is obviosly looking for someone else to pay for her own POOR judgement to smoke in the first place.And yes I am an x-smoker who has accepted responsibility for my own poor judgement.

  36. Ron Carew says:

    I think the company should request an MSDS from the perfume maker. I would think there would be Alcohol in the perfume and that could cause a reaction along with any flower scents. I see what the empolyee is saying but what is the empolyer doing to prove her wrong.How many Comp Claims has this person filed ? If it happen at work and the perfume cause her condition to worsen the employer will lose, again did she inform the employer and give them a chance to correct it ?It easy to say that this sounds crazy but if the empolyer did not do their homework They lose

  37. I had a co-worker once who had bad allergies and told me, so I wouldn’t wear perfume or heavily scented anything to work. I was fine to do this, but drew the line when she accused me of using scented dryer sheets that she claimed she could smell on me. I did use dryer sheets, but the unscented kind because of my own allergies. There has to be a line drawn somewhere and at this point it was starting to become not only silly, but also more of a personal attack.

  38. How dumb. She screwed up her own lungs and then expects everyone to conform to her problems. People are way too sensitive to everything because of trivial lawsuits like this one.

    The true effect of this lawsuit has nothing to do with who should or shouldn’t wear perfumes or colognes. The true effect is what is happening to our country. We are a nation of whiney babies. We are not ready for Globalization and the hyper completive atmosphere that comes with that new reality. As ONE lady who blames someone else for her own mistakes in life ties up a company’s money with a trivial court case, another company in India or China or East Asia or South America is going to spend their money on their product or invention. In short, our country loses, their country wins … another few Americans have less work and jobs to do to support their families and lives and a standard of living while ONE person wastes TIME and MONEY and COURTS on very very trivial issues. How stupid.

  39. Sorry, If she was on the clock when it happened, that means she got hurt at work. Comp. should be paid. Employer should have known her condition before hiring her.

  40. K. Lutgring says:

    Let’s see if I have this straight…
    Option 1: a lawsuit against the tobacco industry…nah, too expensive, besides someone’s already done that.
    Option 2: a lawsuit against the co-worker for aggravated assault…too expensive plus that would make her angry and she’s my ride to bingo every week.
    Option 3: getting my doctor to say I’m permanently disabled so I can collect short, then long-term disability and social security…that won’t be enough and my doctor has something I think he called “ethics”.
    Option 4: file a worker’s compensation claim and get more than short-term disability would offer. Oh and while the claim is being handled, be off on full pay since whistleblower protection keeps you from being fired, and fear of (gasp) aggravating an existing condition prevents the employer from letting you be at work. Oh and because everyone (except perhaps the employer who is paralyzed by fear) realizes that this claim is absolutely ridiculous and they don’t want the publicity or to set a precedant should a claim like this actually succeed, a settlement will be reached outside of court.

    Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees! This is like a life-long epileptic claiming total disability from the fluorescent bulb in the desklamp his co-worker got as a service award. No, I take that back, this is much, much worse.

  41. In my opinion, if she complained to her employer and the perfume spraying employee continued to spray it in her area, even with the pre-existing condition due to the smoking if the perfume aggravated the condition and made it worse and the employer did nothing to prevent it from happening again then yes she has a right to bring suit.

  42. Chris Smith says:

    The office I work at requires that no one, male or female, where perfume or after-shave. Too many people have sensitivities to these items. There is no reason for anyone to wear thesae items in the work place. It is a safety issue.

    As for the other issue. It should be treated as a harrassment issue on the part of the person spraying the perfume. This a counseling issue or at most a reprimand delivered by the employer. There is no justification for this going to court.

  43. If she notified her employer that this was making her sick and they did nothing to speak with the employee in question, then I see a case of neglect on the employers part. There too is the question of whether she disclosed a pre-existing condition to the employer.
    As for the chemicals in perfume, I have sensitivities to perfume and I can tell right away if I’m going to get an allergic reaction by smelling it( runny nose, sneezing, etc.). Especially once a perfume becomes old, they go a bit rancid and give off a foul smell that may only be noticed by those in the area and not the person wearing the perfume. It’s like a smoker that doesn’t know they smell like smoke, but others can clearly smell them.

  44. There may need to be more information than the article provided. It does sound like the woman was looking for someone to blame her 43 years of smoking on. Where is her obligation to care for herself? I’m not sure she could prove without a doubt that her illness that day was the perfume. How did she get to work that morning? Was there any air pollution on her way? What about the pollen counts? Did she leave or go outside anytime during the day? There could have been any number of other factors involved other than just the perfume. Say she was deathly allergic to the kind of perfume that was sprayed that day and there were no other factors involved, she would be responsible for making sure that she was protected. Is she ever going to go in public? I suppose it would then be the public’s responsibility? These kinds of law suits are wasting tax dollars, making insurance go up, and making it more difficult for legitimate claims to be made. It’s very sad that this woman’s health has been affected however it’s not the employers responsibility. You can’t prevent everything that smells from coming into a building unless you work in a “clean lab” environment. It seems safe to say that this woman did not.

  45. I had a issue like this over a year ago. I was exposed to perfume from a co worker. Generally when that happens, my head fills up, I get chest pain, and then it goes away after about a hour. This particular event the chest pain lasted for hours. I kept thinking it would go away like usual, but it did not so I went to the urgent care clinic, had some cardiac tests and ended up on a medication that I am still on. They denied the claim stating it was ‘incidental to employment’. So I tend to be on the side of the claimant. What I would like more than anything is for people to refrain from wearing scents in the workplace. It is hard enought to even go shopping some times!

  46. A lot of perfume is petroleum based and is a health risk to all even non smokers!
    do your home work before your comments people.

  47. Bob Browning says:

    Granted we don’t have all the facts in this case but one thing is clear to me. As I stated before, she chose her lifestyle. It’s time people take responsibility for their actions. There are to many case loads before the courts that are simply unjustified. What ever happened to morals and responsibilty? I can only see this worsen with time.

  48. I read the article, and I read most of the posts below. I just don’t understand why the majority of people that have replied are all saying (with mostly common sense) that the company shouldn’t be liable, and yet our court systems and our government still sail on a course like a boat with no crew?
    How the hell did we get to this point???

  49. pete parson says:

    Assuming no employment contract existed wherein an employee might be asked to disclose possible allergies to deodorants, air-sprays etc which might adversely affect their personal health the company could be sued for damages and/or workmen’s compensation. A wise attorney may even concede that the worker’s 43 year habit greatly contributed to her “condition”. A jury then might find the worker to be 99% at fault leaving the company liable for but 1%, however, many states in an effort to discourage attorneys from collecting 30 to 50% of a client’s personal injury award have enacted legislation limiting fees to what is “reasonable”. In this case the court could award the attorney reasonable fees amounting to tens of thousands of dollars while the client receives but a nominal sum, certainly a Pyrrhic victory for the company and more fodder for unscrupulous attorneys to keep engaging in reprehensible behavior, meanwhile reinforcing the acrimonious state of affairs wherein one is allotted only as much justice as and for which one can pay.

  50. pete parson says:

    If the editors wish me to “moderate” my previous comment then perhaps they could insert a period in the last sentence immediately after the word “behavior” and delete “meanwhile reinforcing the acrimonious state… .”

  51. Sounds like the lady and lawyer went after the money. They both know most juries side with the defendants and against the company in these type cases. They also were pretty sure it would be thrown out of court if she sued the perfume sprayer or would have to settle for less. Show me the Money!!!

  52. It’s cases like this that make it impossible for employer’s to continue to do business in the U.S.A. and what makes safety professionals jobs a nightmare. In my opinion the entire Worker’s Compensation system needs a major overhaul. This case and many like it, make any pre-existing condition a liability for the employer, because unfortuanately the way the system is now, all you have to do is aggravate the condition and you own it forever. It also makes compliance impossible, there are so many conditions employees have and have had for a long time, that the employer does not have the right to know (due to HIPPA) and have no way to guard against. Things have gotten out of control. If the U.S.A. wants to continue to supply employment they need to take a serious look at how over board it has gotten when it comes to compliance and compensation.

  53. William Saftman says:

    If a formal complaint was not filed by the victim at the time of the event and the incident not investigated by all parties involved there should be no case against the company. Did she advise her co worker of the air quality issue she was creating ? If so, and the spraying continued she should have informed the employer of the problem and requested appropriate action be taken. I smell more than cologne in this deal.

  54. Lame

  55. This is a sad day for all upstanding organizations if Ms. Sexton wins her suit. She should have went to a supervisor or manager and expressed her discomfort with the spraying of the perfume. Otherwise, she is responsible for her illness. If she smoked for 43 years her condition is a trigger she pulled a long time ago. If her coworker, nor the company were aware of her health issues, why should they be liable?

    Now on the flip side I believe all should be conscientious of how much perfume we wear especially when we work in close proximity to other people. Even more so in the health care industry you are leaning into, talking and breathing on patients all day, recognize that some people are more sensitive than others.

  56. Shirley D. says:

    I don’t think we have enough information. Did the Nursing Home have a policy about use of perfumes/cologne/aftershave, etc. at work? I work in an assisted living facility which has a policy stating employees are not to use these as many elderly residents cannot tolerate the odors for various reasons. We have had an employee go into an asthmatic attack when an uninformed staff member showed up drenched in perfume. Our two local hospitals also don’t permit their use. It sounds like the lady in question’s health was in a very borderline state and was tiipped over the edge with the perfume. Yes, she had responsibilities as already stated and I’m glad I’m not having to deal with it.

  57. Effie Mae, RN says:

    Our Long Term Care Facility also has a policy of no perfume/aftershave. This is for the benefit of residents as well as employees. As the employee health nurse and as a person with asthma I can state that strong chemical odors of any kind may trigger a strong respiratory response. All employers should be aware of this, particularly those who provide care for the aging population who have a higher percentage of chronic respiratory ailments. Make this a part of your dress code and you are covered…then you don’t have to worry about whether or not you agree with what the court system is doing.

  58. Walt West says:

    We had an employee who did not report that he had MS when he was a teenager. He is now claiming a work related neck injury that was never reported and his medical problems are no consistent with those resulting from a neck injury. The comp carrier will settle with him just to avoid a possible long term medical payout. So anything is possible now.

  59. Since I have very severe allergies to perfume (but not disinfectants or cleaners) I can only hope my kids don’t put me in that nursing home! As for telling the employer that there is a problem with Mrs. Perfume, more often than not there is ridicule and disbelief because the employer doesn’t suffer from that kind of allergy.

  60. I also have many sensitivities to perfumes, flowers, paint and many others but let’s face it being sensitive to something because you are born with many allergies and being sensitive because you have abused your own body for 43 years are two different things. The co-worker probably had to spray the perfume three times just to stand being close to this person. There is nothing worse than the stinch of stale smoke on a habitual smoker. All this aside, in a healthcare environment, there are many cleaning products that could do the same thing. Ms. Sexton jeopardized her own well-being by making another bad choice-first smoking and now- to place herself in this type of environment, where she could potentially be exposed to many different hazardous scents. The company should however, review their policies as they relate to wearing perfume. Most healthcare facilities prohibit this as it could be problematic to many of the patients/clients/residents they serve. If this is the case for this company they should counsel the co-worker. If not, they should consider making such a policy. At most this aggrevated Ms. Sexton’s condition. I feel sorry for the results of Ms. Sexton’s obvious poor choices but do not believe others should have to pay for them. The lower courts were right in the first ruling, but just watch and see, she will win this one and the costs of work compensation insurances will soar yet again.

  61. Interesting case, made more interesting without knowing all of the facts. Couple of things come to mind. Most, and I emphasis most, people have some sense of their personal well being and survival. So the 43 year smoker might have informed the individual that the her, I assume it was a her, perfume was an irritant to her ability to breath normally. Or as normal as 43 year smokers breath. The smoker could at that point informed the supervisor of the situation, and, if nothing was done even verbally, the liability scale gets up. Two more times……….. If you have a fairly serious breathing afliction that affects your ADL, how many times to you have to stick you finger on the hot stove to get the message?
    Observation. I always understood the work comp system was devised to keep on the job injuries out of the civil court system. And, attornies could not collect fees from recoveries that would normally be due under the work comp law. Maybe that’s a state to state thing.
    If three puffs of purfume cased a month IP hospital stay in this day in age, the hiring process of the Nursing home needs some work. This sounds like a “warm-body” that would have difficult performing the essential functions of her job.

  62. Mr. Safety and Willie are the only ones who get it – when you hire someone, you hire their medical history as well. If a previous condition is aggravated while the employee is performing his/her job duties, it’s worker’s comp in this state. I agree with many of the arguments presented, but unfortunately, in this state the company would likely be held responsible under worker’s comp.

  63. I agree with many of the posts that regardless of privacy laws, this woman had a responsibility TO HERSELF to alert her employer to her chemical sensitivities so that appropriate measures could be taken. Her ILLNESS was not caused by the one incident- it was exacerbated. Her smoking caused her illness. I also agree with the question – why would someone with this problem work in such an environment( with many types of artificial odors)?The last question is the intention of the other employee when spraying/ wearing the perfume.

    That said-There are many folks with multiple chemical sensitivities out there- all employers should remind employees to use scent sparingly if at all, especially in a health care setting.
    It will beinteresting to see the outcome.

  64. I think it’s Bob that should do his homework. Most perfumes are alcohol based, not petroleum.

  65. Unfortunately, Worker’s Comp Laws hold that employers should assume costs of occupational injuries and/or illnesses without regard to any fault involved. This leads to the saying that an employer has to take his/her employee “as is” and that they will be held responsible for any aggravation of an existing injury/illness directly attributed to the job. This means that this issue isn’t whether or not the employee told the employer about her pre-existing illness, but rather did the co-employee’s use of perfume at the job directly contribute to the worsening of her condition. The fact that she was hospitalized on the same day and had to stay there for a month seems to back the case that it did. As an asmatic that has been totally shut down from someone wearing excessive perfume in the past, I don’t find that hard to imagine.

    However, this is not all one sided as it appears since the Worker’s Comp law also limits the employer’s liability to a worker’s comp claim alone and does not allow the employee to file common-law suits involving negligence which in today’s legal climate would indeed come with a higher price tag. Under Workers’ Comp the employee would only be eligible for medical bills related to the worsening condition, temporary disability payments (which is normally 66 2/3% of their weekly salary) and a maximal medical payment that uses a formula of the percentage of damage done to the body as a whole, equaled out to a number of weeks and then multiplied by the amount of temporary payment of wages. Although, depending on the medical bills, this usually only runs around a few hundreds of thousand dollars, it is nothing compared to the multi-million dollar settlements some personal injury lawyers seem to get out of jury’s these days. Luckily these claims are done by the State Worker’s Comp boards and not through jury trials.

  66. Rich Belmontez says:

    Was perfume sprayed as a means to mask chronic, indoor environmental conditions (i.e. sanitation)?
    Was perfume sprayed to compensate for the chronic cigarette odor of a colleague (the “injured” employee)?
    Was the perfume sprayed in an adversarial manner that approached a hostile enviornment?
    As a safety professional I have been dragged into situations in each of these catagories.
    What did the employer know, when did they know it, and was anything done to mitigate th situation?

  67. Bob Fitzgerald says:

    As a lot of folks stated. Lots of questions, not enough answers. Per HIPPA an employer, health care worker or medical service provider can’t not discuss someone medical condition without written approval from the patient. That said, employees have the responsibilty to inform thier employer of any medical or phyisical condition, that would prevent them from safely performing thier job duties.
    I’ve worked for 3 different medical service providers and each had a policy in place about perfumes and after shaves.
    My heart goes out to the lady with cronic health conditions, I watched my Dad suffer with lung cancer for 4 years, and another friend suffering from COPD, which they got from smoking. It’s not a pretty sight. Yet if she wins this, it is opening a door for everyone to jump on the bandwagon. If that’s the case can I request workers compensation or hostile work environment because I get sick to my stomach from the smell when co-workers come back from a smoke break?
    Employors have to provide a safe, secure, and healthy work environment for employees. But employees have to take responsibilty for thier actions

  68. I have non-allergic rhinitis, as does nearly 22% of the American public and most complain about headaches after smelling some odor. Approximately 80% of those inflicted say their major trigger is fragrances. I basically was forced out of a job by a truly ignorant Risk Manager who said if it didn’t bother her, than it wasn’t a problem, and allowed a female employee who used perfume in place of personal hygiene to sit right in the next area to me. I missed numerous days from work, had to seek assistance of a speech pathologist to learn to breathe so my throat would not close up. The minute I smelled her perfume I would get a migraine headache and neither the Risk Manager or HR department would do anything because she was a minority and it did not bother them. I was forced to leave out of health reasons, and the Risk Manager made my life a hell. I live with constant migraines but very slight comparitively. I am told by professionals the chronic exposure has led to chronic problems. Is it a disability? Yes, very much so, especially in a social or business setting when you must be exposed to unwanted fragrances. A simple customer meeting can turn into three weeks of a migraine, often disabling with the sensitivity to light, sound, and other smells.

    The readership may not understand that expensive perfumes are based on growth of natural fragrances, which limits supply. Demand has forced synthetic fragrances which are made from some of the 300+ chemicals used in the industry, of which at least 12 are on the EPA Hazardous Chemical List. Bob is correct, and apparently did his homework.

  69. I don’t know why her co-worker has to spray 3 times a day. Is once not enough? Maybe her co-worker was the one who can’t stand it (or them) that’s why she kept on spraying several times a day as a means of abatement for the smell that she couldn’t stand. Or maybe DS didn’t like the brand. Whatever the reasons, DS should have referred the problem to the management first if she has a good motive.

  70. Chris White says:

    It is sad to see someone try to collect from their own bad decisions. Yes, I can see how this perfume may have caused a problem because I have personally gagged from the smell of strong perfume, but did the employee properly inform her supervisor, did the correct documentation take place, and does the lady have proof and documentation that she stopped smoking prior this condition. Unfortunately, sympothetic juries and judges tend to award these people with claims. What happened to the U.S. being a land of opportunity instead of a land of intitlements? Wake up people, if we don’t stand for what is right we will soon witness the silent gun that brings America to it’s knees.
    The hope I’m wrong but I’m afraid the gun is being loaded as we speak.

    Have a blessed day,

    Christopher A White

  71. Virginia Cook says:

    My sixth sense tells me there’s more to this than is being said. As pointed out several times, in a health-related environment there are numerous other substances that would/could cause such a reaction as well as the perfume. I wonder if she had ever complained before about any other such incidents or factors that had a similar effect on her. I wonder if she’s not exaggerating her ability to function (breathe) without oxygen. This is not to say she isn’t 200% ill, but good Goddess! 43 years of cigarettes and the company would be held liable or something that pushed her over the edge? Something’s rotten in Denmark. I just don’t buy her story – it’s incomplete.

  72. Charity Parris says:

    The HIPPA laws do not allow an employer to divulge personal or medical information about their employees to other employees. The lung condition the employee has is due to her smoking a pack of cigarettes per day for 43 years despite the Surgeon General’s Warnings about smoking, yet she choose to continue smoking for 43 years. I feel the company should not be liable because they did not force her to smopke for 43 years and since the company is not allowed to divulge information about co-worker’s health conditions—I feel the company is totally not liable nor do I feel the co-worker is responsible either, after all for a number of years non-smokers were subjected to second hand cigarette smoke by cigarette smokers. I have many allergies, but that is not the fault of my employer.
    I feel bad for the lady, but as my Mother would say, “She made her bed for a number of years.” Unfortunatley this is what leads to more and more laws and regualtions that keep us writing more and more policies in the work place.

  73. When I worked in a nursing home 20 or so years ago, employees were prohibited from wearing any scents since the elderly often have compromised immune systems and thus more suspeptible to problems. Prohibiting scents was a reasonable accomodation for the residents to ensure that they were not unnecessarily exposed to things that could make them ill.

  74. Rob Drollinger says:

    HELL NO the nursing home should not be held liable! Are we so insane as to put the fear of government into the hearts of every business-owner in the country? And we wonder why our insurance rates are so high!

  75. S. Nielsen says:

    Is she still smoking? No mention of her quitting.

  76. I understand that some people may be sensitive to some perfumes and colognes, I sometimes am told that I may have put on a “little extra” perfume, and then I try not to use too much, but this person had smoked for 43 years. I think she should not be awarded anything. After all, there are other odors in a nursing home besides perfume, why not add them to the lawsuit?

  77. In an employee handbook there has to be a hygiene and dress code. If spraying perfume 3 times a day is mandatory, the co-worker is trying to mask an underlying problem and her supervisor doesn’t have the courage to talk to the employee who is spraying. Has anyone interviewed the “sprayer” person? Maybe Doris and the co-worker are in it together and are willing to split the winnings? When it comes to must take responsibility for your descisions in life.

  78. Here’s my question? If this holds up in court, then is an employer going to be able to say you can not wear perfume to work? How about the patients in this nursing home? Older ladies like to wear perfume, does this mean that a resident has to stop wearing it too. Chronic patients know what bothers them and what doesn’t, she probably should have picked a profession outside.

  79. It seems most everyone is making this a personal injury case. This is workers’ compensation and governed by state workers’ compensation laws. Although I don’t know the rules & regulations in New Jersey, I would say the perfume would be an aggrevation of a pre-existing condition. The questions is did the perfume cause her condition to worsen. Read JB’s comment. That’s the reality of workers’ compensation in cases like this. Do I agree? No, but unfortunaetly that’s just the way it is.

  80. Carol Johnson says:

    This woman did not accept any responsibility for her own health if she smoked heavily….and now she wants others to pay for that irresponsibilty.

    This is a textbook case of what is wrong with our legal system.

  81. T Gilmore says:

    Anyone who works in HR knows that there is an uneven playing field between employees and their employer. The workers’ compensation system is severly broken and lawyers have and will continue to prey on employers because the legal system is also broken. The only way I sleep at night is knowing that the majority of employees are good and only a few abuse the weaknesses of the various systems.

    Doris Sexton is going to die from smoking cigarettes, not smelling perfume. Her lawyer is going to make money, the employer’s lawyer is going to make money, Doris might get some money for a limited amount of time, and her employer will end up footing the bill for everything including the workers’ compensation insurance premium.

    There are good lawyers and bad lawyers but let’s face it, there are too many lawyers. I think it’s the root cause of many problems in the US.

  82. Mary Brandenberger says:

    I have what is called MCS. I am severely allergic to perfumes and body sprays. I developed this condition 2 years ago at work from a co-worker who sat at the desk across the isle from me. It developed over a period of time. She was asked by management not to wear it but she continued and nothing was done about it and management did not do anything to help the situation. I was taken out or the office by ambulance twice. I am at the point where 3 fragrances are lethal to me and most others cause headaches, blisters on my face and body, shortness of breath, and other problems. I have to wear a respirator to go out in public and I cannot work any more. Two years ago I did not have any of these problems and often wore fragrance myself. The most toxic chemical in fragrances is famaldahyde which is mostly used as imbalming fluid when you die) and it is the biggest culprit. Perfume manyfacturers are exempt from disclosure laws and don’t have to tell what is in their fragrances. I don’t argue with the smoking issue, but it may not have had anything to do with the perfume problem.

  83. Mary, that is so sad to hear that happened to you. I hope that companiy is being forced to pay for all your medical bills and time lost from work. Whether it’s thru WC or not. After all, they are the ones who were neglegent for not doing anything to hold the OSHA standard of a safe and healthy workplace. What a loser of a company.

  84. I would think that the General Duty Clause might apply here. I would double check though….I do not think that perfume is exempt from requiring an MSDS.

  85. Mary Brandenberger says:

    Bill, no they aren’t paying for my time off work. I most likely will never be able to work again because of the possibility of being exposed to a fragrance. Once you have it you most likely will never have it go away. It will back off some by staying away from it but every time you get exposed it gets worse. The doctor told me that it will get worse every time until I have an exposure that will take my life. The laws in Nevada as far as worker’s comp are almost non-existant and I applied for Social Security but they always deny these claims until a hearing. Right now, the wait for a hearing is about 3 years and I am still waiting without any income. Carol, MSDS applies to anything that would exist in the workplace as a result of the workings of the workplace. Such things as disinfectants, lotions, powders, medications for breathing treatments, floor cleaners and waxes, medications, etc. would apply. What an employee brings in, unless it is necessary to perform the duty, does not apply to the MSDS. Perfume manufacturers are exempt from by law from being required to disclose the ingredients in their product because of the possibility of having their formulas stolen, which could cause them to lose a large part of their income for the product. If anyone is interested in more information I have tons of studies and other information on the subject and I would gladly get you connected with information you would like to have.

  86. Fear of having a forumula stolen is not a basis for NOT developing an MSDS. The maker can claim it is proprietary…however….healthcare givers can and do have the right to demand to know what is in a product. You may have already done this…but if not…try asking for the MSDS and good luck!

    Here is a good site about the dangers of fragrances….and I bet you have more!

  87. Mary Brandenberger says:

    Thanks for the websites. Some of it is information I already have but there is some new information I can use. When a doctor calls for the MSDS they are put off by the company. Many of the companies are outside of this country also. As you can see, there are regulations that have to be present to force them to provide their formulas. What happens if they are forced is that they demand a court order. By the time that can happen it is usually a moot point. The exception is Mary Kay products. They have a line to call that is staffed with doctors and nurses and they answer your questions and will send the information. If you know what you are allergic to they will check and find products that don’t contain that ingredient. So far they have quite a few products I can use.

  88. There are over 300 chemicals in use today for fragrances, all of which do have MSDS. However, companies, including such as Coca Cola and most fragrance manufacturers, do not have to indulge their ingredients. Some states do not have a General Duty Clause so such affects on the employees has to be contained in a standard, directive, or interpretation. In most cases, and this is based on fact, an individual can have the air freshner removed or changed in the rest room because of sensitivity based on these directives, but since personal hygiene is often tossed under HR controls the company can interpret differently and often is referred to internal policies and not agency directives. Smoking is still a social event and throughout the years there have been complaints ranging from smokers get numerous breaks that non-smokers don’t receive to the second-hand smoke. I quit November 4, 1984 and am sensitive to smoke now because of my experience with fragrances. Companies have created smoking areas and policies, to include no smoking at work to accomodate the non-smoker, but very little concerning fragrances. Research has shown chemical inhalation affects target organs and often turns fron acute to chronic so repeated exposure as many of us have had, may not dissipate from your system, only lead to more accumulation and destruction. Hense, the migraine headaches and respiratory problems.

  89. By OSHA standards, every company has to produce an MSDS sheet when required or requested. The fact that the woman sprayed perfume at work, not just once but three times in the direction of the other which in turn affected her health is a WC case. The woman who got sprayed should have filed a complaint for harrassment also. Granted she was a smoker before, she had no problem doing her job until this incident happened. WC should be granted. I personally, after the 3rd time would have belted her.

  90. Mary Brandenberger says:

    My case had to go through HR and they basically laughed about it and then told the woman to quit wearing it but they also told her if she didn’t quit wearing it there is nothing they could do because it would be a violation of her rights. Believe me, the third time I would have liked to belt her too, the problem was that I was unconcious and the medics were pumping medications into me as fast as they could. It doesn’t fall under Worker’s Comp because it is an injury that is incurred outside the scope of the employment. Very fine line, but it is there. I filed on harrassment and won on that but Nevada law is very weak and got practically nothing, especially since I have been without a paycheck for 2-1/2 years and am looking at another 6 months before before a Social Security hearing. Part of the problem is getting the illness accepted as a legitimate disability and there is not much case law to support it at this time. I am a Certified Paralegal and I used to work in Worker’s Rights and I have done hundreds of research on this. On top of everything else, would you believe the company I worked for when I got sick is a major health insurance company. They didn’t have to pay my bills as worker’s comp but they had to pay them as my health care insurance provider.

  91. Bruce…EVERY state must have a general duty clause regardless if they have Federal or state-based OSHA. State-basd “OSHA’s” can not have regulations that are less than the federal.

    As to worrker’s compensation….I would think this might be compensable under the concept of aggravation of a prexisting condition. I presume though that you have looked into this.

    What a horrible situation for you!

  92. In an accute care facility like a nursing home or a hospital, perfume is not usually allowed due to it’s sometimes adverse reactions in sensitive people “like” the patients/residents. The patients/residents are not able to communicate or describe what they are reacting to in some cases. If all perfumes smelled good to all people, there wouldn’t be so many. People that aren’t affected at all by perfumes have those that are “over” affected on the other end of the spectrum.

  93. I am afflicted with non-allergic rhinitis which makes me quite sensitive to chemicals, most prenominant trigger is perfumes. So I have to be cautious of where I go, who I meet with, etc. I have done extensive research on the problem and most has come out of Canada. Recently when I got my invitation to present/attend the Canadian Society of Safety Engineering conference I was so pleased to see along with it being smoke free, it is also billed as “Fragrance Free”! About time.

  94. David Lichtbach says:

    The woman smoked for 15695 days. The damage was done over a period of one day. The employer should be held liable for .0000637% of the injuries incurred. Any other monies to be recovered should be directed toward the person using the perfume. If the employer was not made aware of the employees condition in order to make an effort to accomodate the employee the court shouldn’t find for the employee for even as much as .02 cents. The value of my comment.

  95. Carol Johnson says:

    Exposure to perfume can range from annoying to sickening. I do not believe however that exposure to three squirts of perfume in one day is going to render you unable to work and dependent on an oxygen tank. Weigh the history of smoking versus the one day exposure…..does not compute. I am not denying that the exposure may have made her sick but I do not see how it caused her CHRONIC problem.

    She lived an unhealthy life style and now wants someone else to pay for it. Ultimately, that is you and I since worker’s comp. costs increase the cost of doing business.

    Sexton had a chronic lung condition that resulted from smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for 43 years. She claims the perfume made her illness worse.

  96. David, whether the employer knew about the condition of the exsmoker or not doesn’t matter. It happened at work on the clock and the result was proven by medical exams. The other should have been respectful and sprayed perfume on herself in the ladies room. She also must have a real odor problem for her to have to spray herself 3 times in one day. I wonder how much you would like it if this happened to you. I’m very healthy and it would still have affect on my breathing inhaling all the crap in the air around me.

  97. Carol, It was proven through medical exams to have made her condition worse. And the article states that the perfume was sprayed, not just little squirts. That woman should have applied her perfume in the ladies room. Instead she had no respect for anybody around her. And it doesn’t matter what condition the exsmokers health was in at the time. That frankly is nobodies business anyway.

  98. David Lichtbach says:

    Bill, This woman was permanently disabled before she even took the job. As she was incapable of going any place outside her home. Or where she could control the millions of people who where cologne, perfume, aftershave, deodorant, etc. etc. Without risking her health. The only individuals who would have a right to know of her affliction would be her and her Dr. I’m sorry you think her health issues would be anybodies responsibility but her own. It’s a shame 3 squirts of perfume triggered such an unfortunate outcome. But neither the co-worker nor the employer loaded the gun. The company shouldn’t even be liable for the medical treatment she now needs. If they weren’t given an opportunity to make accomodations (if they were reasonable) to terminate (if they were not reasonable)or to warn the offending co-worker.

  99. Dave, Are we reading the same article? Where does it state that she was incapable of going any place outside her home? It also states sprayed 3 times, not 3 squirts. There is a difference. The employer is a fault and should pay no matter what excuse you can come up with because her new injury (condition) happened while working. As you say neither the employer nor co-worker loaded the the gun but they pulled the trigger.

  100. In Re: Carol Johnson “I do not believe however that exposure to three squirts of perfume in one day is going to render you unable to work and dependent on an oxygen tank.” Carol; are you familiar with terms like chemical warfare, neuro toxins, nerve gas? These types of chemicals were launched into the air and able to affect people and animals many “miles” away. I have had severe reactions to some perfumes/chemicals since I was 13, I am now 52. Being male, some things about child birth are not comprehensible to me. Does that mean it doesn’t exist? People buy perfumes & colognes HOPING they will affect other people, the right person to be more precise. More to follow>>>

  101. In re: David Lichtbach. Her co-worker “did load the gun.” She sprayed it! Ms Sexton said “the co-worker sprayed perfume near her “at least” three (3) times on one day.” It is not a job related task to put on perfume. So her dilly dallying caused at least 1 medical prob. A manager should have noticed this strong odor around patients. David, your writings show you don’t grasp the situation. No, I am not being mean. Not everyone that is affected this way is a smoker. It is a hard thing to get people to understand; even some doctors don’t
    get it.

    Perfume is oil based. Likewise, Poison ivy’s “oil” is what causes the itching and swelling. It is hard to wash off even if you have the opportunity. Think about this more before you point fingers. Simple logic & reason will reveal much if thought is allowed.

    It is embarrassing and frustrating to explain this repeatedly to co-workers, etc. Now try to explain it while you are gasping for breath and your brain is oxygen deprived.

  102. Mary Brandenberger says:

    I am sure there are millions of people David Lichtbach besides who do not get it about Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. I hope these people eventually will educate themselves on this. If people will take 15 minutes for this they can go to: From that site there is a 15 minute introductory video that will really open your eyes. In addition to that, if you just do a general search on Multiple Chemical Sensitivity you will get thousands of hits. The important thing to know is that in 2002, Harvard did a study and there were an estimated 7.5 million people that have it to some extent. In the latest study in 2008 by University of Arizona estimates there are now an estimated 15 million people with it. Obviously, that means the number of people has doubled in 6 years. I developed this condition 3 years ago and it constantly gets worse until an exposure kills. Up until I developed this I would wear fragrance myself. It took someone wearing extreme amounts at work that caused it for me. There are 3 fragrances that are deadly to me now. I can’t work and have to wear a respirator when I will be in contact with people. Check it out, the facts are scary. Anyone who has questions is certainly welcome to contact me personally.

  103. Keith Porter says:

    I agree with T.Bock, Common sense has to come into play at some point and people need to take personal responsability for their own actions. Forty years of smoking leaves no room to complain about any breathing issues one might have.

  104. Keith, where does it say she had breathing issues? There were no complaints of breathing until her rude co-worker sprayed perfume. 3 times even. She had chronic lung, but was breathing on her own until this happened. Also it wasn’t anything she did (own actions), it was what her co-worker did that made her condition worse.

  105. Mary…I think most of us posting “get it” about sensitivity to perfume. What we don’t “get” is why her own self-inflicted damage is ignored. She had COPD because she choose to smoke for years.

    If you will check out the court record that is posted on the internet, you will discover:

    1. The medical opinion on the was split 50/50. IMHO, the deciding vote should have been a medical expert…not a judge. (and other judges did not agree with him…so really the majority of opinions were NOT in her favor.

    2, There is no evidence that she informed her employer of her medical isssue with perfume until AFTER the second event on the day in question.

    3. She was not around the co-worker all three times. The first time she simply smelled it in the room. She never asked the co-worker not to use the perfume around her. Why did she not tell her this?

    People who use perfume are not “loading the gun” more than someone who eats peanuts at work (expsoure to which can cause a fatal reaction in some) If she was sensitive…she should have let her employer and co-workers know in advance…and they then should have respected this.

    As to the person who wanted to know about my experience with chemicals. I was in Vietnam around Agent Orange, I served at the post that was home to the Army Chemical Corp…and I have done IH work for about 35 years.

    I am not denying that people can have major problems upon exposure….I am saying that she smoked for years and caused herself to have COPD…and most likely the extreme sensitivity. She should have to shoulder at least the responsibility for her core medical problem

  106. Sheila Storey says:

    I agree with “When are people going to take accountability for what they do to themselves?” The judicial system has made it easy for people to make money on claims that should never be filed. When a person can sue Hardees because they get burned with coffee and win the suit, there is some kind of problem. Then are we going to allow people to get paid for eating greasy hamburgers and gaining weight or causing a cholesterol problem? Some things are just as they seem!

  107. This is not an OSHA issue (yet) but a workers comp law issue. The few states I have experienced work comp law and administration all have one thing in common – if you aggravate a preexisting condition you pretty much own it for TTD, and may get some relief from any PPD.

    I am old enough to have worked for years in the “smoke filled rooms”, plus my dad was a chain smoker. What a relief it was to most non smokers to have smoking banned from work places. Will laws ever allow the banning of perfume or strong colognes – doubtful.

    Had a lady at work that developed a serious bacterial and fungal lung infestation – we found absolutely no traces in our plant or duct work of this rather unique fungi, but our work comp board held us liable because she said she developed a problem from getting a strong smell of alcohol (isopropyl) out of a drum she opened.

    She had no evidence except her testimony.

    Get used to it – work comp is not fair, but was developed to reduce our legal liabilities.

  108. Charles M says:

    Call it what you will, Smoke free, Fragrance Free, Odor Free; next thing we know, we’ll get sued after accidentally farting a stinker, getting BO, or incidentally having bad breath while being near someone that irresponsibly (or intentionally) neglected to reveal a “medical” condition.

  109. Doc Bruce says:

    Charles, there already is standards in most Government offices and most Municipalities, along with many large companies that do cover such as Body Odor and fragrances. You likely can raise a stink because of it, but if you fail to take care of the stink, there is unemployment! Don’t believe you can sue or get sued, and there is the “Wrongful Termination” way to counter, and all that other stuff you can research when you aren’t working.

  110. Carol – On Jan 5th you posted. First Carol. Thank you for you service to our country, what ever your capacity / assignment was. Much respect and appreciation.

    I bow to your experience. Some chemicals, whether for warfare, love or etc, are Endocrine Disruptors. Some have a short term effect while others are, more permanent. In one of my previous posts I stated that my first detrimental perfume reaction was at age 13. I was not much of a smoker at that tender age. No poor self care to blame on me. I had short term (2 days) respiratory problems and mental disorientation too. The product was Nina Ricci perfume worn by my step mom on an long car trip.

    Also, in military training for chemical protection from “enemy” agents, tear gas, et al:, did they train all personnel or only the non-smokers? Your implication is that only smokers would suffer or react to these chemical assaults and the war theater would then be rid of the vile smokers.

    The type of mind set expressed by most posts here sounds more emotional rather than legal, logical or scientific.

    Aside from all of that, thanks again for your time in south east Asia.

  111. Mary Brandenberger says:

    The issue does’t have that much to do with the situation. Although breathin is sometimes affected, the major problem is that it affects the brain and nervous system. I become like small child and can’t function normally. I usually don’t remember what went on. It begins to damage the brain. I only need a few more classes for my degree but can’t finish because I can’t remember the information. I can’t remember to take meds if I have an exposure. My service dog and a respirator finally allow me to get out of the house for short periods. I still have to make sure my skin is covered or I may get bleeding blisters on bare skin.

  112. Patricia Gauss says:

    I too have a problem with smells, I have asked the women at work to not use the perfume so much and they laughed in my face. I went to the front office and told the HR person, I was off sick for two weeks and when I returned there was a OSHA law about perfume posted, the women are still using the perfume
    I have gone back up to the HR person where I worked and complained about them still using perfume, she
    told me she would have a talk with them. Well all I got out of it was now they are going to the front office and telling the HR person lies about me saying I said things to them or accused them of something. I now talk to no one at work because of this, now they can not say I said anything to them. Yesterday when I went to leave work I had to hold my breath while I went to my locker to put my things away, because the smell of perfume was so strong in the locker room. Today I am off work because I am having somewhat of a problem breathing. So now what the notice has been posted and the some of the employees are ignoring it.
    I have just as much of a right to work there as anyone else. I did not have this problem when I started there.
    This has been a bad past couple of months for me. What do I wait until I have a major ashtma attack?
    Seems like going to the HR person at work does is cause more problems. Some people could be childish. I
    just wish they would have a problem breathing just once and see what I am going thru.

  113. Patricia, I would call your state Dept. of Labor office or the OSHA office in your area and report it to them. Your company cannot retaliate against you because there is a whistle blower rights law. OSHA can tell you about how that law protects your rights. Your employer should be providing a safe working enviorment for everyone to stay in compliance anyway.

  114. I have a problem with perfume and I have asked employees not to wear perfume scented products. Now I am getting ready to go to OSHA and ask them what I need to do. I get severe headaches, I have problems concentrating and I carry a cloth to cover my face when I go down the hall. I feel trapped in my office because of this. If this women has the same problem I do then yes Workers Comp should cover it.

  115. The condition is called “Non-Alergic Rhynitis” which is a sensitivity to chemicals that usually caused a form of a migraine headache, which in turn shows similar patterns to allergies with incresed drainage and other symptoms associated with allergies. There are differing stages of this from mild (someone says they get a headache when around perfumes or cigarette smoke) to a disabling migraine headache. A Canadian study reported that in 80% of all persons who are afflicted with Non-Alergic Rhynitis state their number 1 trigger is fragrances. Since good/expensive perfumes are normally made from flowers, and the more popular and inexpensive perfumes are made from an assortment of chemicals, sprays with fragrances and chemical perfumes will easily set off an episode. When the flower growing supply is exceeded by demand, even good perfume manufacturers will use chemical substitutes.


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