Safety and OSHA News

Employee wins $100K over allergy to co-worker’s perfume

An employee who said a co-worker’s perfume made her throat “close a little” will receive $100,000 from her employer in a settlement. The company will also have to enact a new policy on personal scents.

City of Detroit employee Susan McBride filed her lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She claimed the city failed to reasonably accommodate her allergy after she complained that a co-worker’s perfume made it difficult for her to breathe.

The city argued the perfume allergy didn’t qualify as a “major life activity” under the ADA.

But a judge disagreed, saying that breathing qualifies as a major life activity.

Under a settlement reached with McBride, the city will have to post notices in buildings where McBride works, asking other city employees not to wear scents at work.

The notice will contain this language: “To accommodate employees who are medically sensitive to the chemicals in scented products, the city of Detroit requests that you refrain from wearing scented products, including but not limited to colognes, after-shave, lotions, perfumes, deodorants, body/face lotions, hair sprays or similar products.”

No scented deodorants? That could be problematic.

But one company has decided to turn that potential problem into an opportunity.

The makers of unscented Crystal deodorant recently distributed free samples of their product to City of Detroit employees.

Crystal Vice President Larry Friedberg notes, “If people can’t wear deodorant, there’s going to be body odor at work.”

Friedberg says Crystal is made from natural salt, without scents.

Getting back to the case, here are some questions: Wouldn’t it have been easier — and less expensive — for the City of Detroit to have asked McBride’s co-worker not to wear perfume? What do you think about workplace scent bans for health reasons? You can share your comments below.

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  • Rhonda

    What a farce! McBride deserved nothing more than an eyeroll on her complaint.

  • joe
  • RWA

    That is ridiculous. Detroit should have appealed, but also done as Rhonda said beforehand.

  • Jamie

    I’m with you Rhonda! Stop lawsuit abuse. It’s something that definitely should of been handled in house. Sounds like poor management. It should of been as simple as management asking the person to cut back on the perfume. My wife hates the smell of old spice so it would bothered her if a co-worker wore it hot and heavy that she had to work in close proximity to. People get attitudes, but that’s were good management comes in to resolve and restore the work environment.

  • Jen

    Once you begin doing some research into the toxic chemicals hidden behind the word “fragrance” on the label of your favorite personal care product, you will never use artificially scented products ever again. Everyone should look in to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Cosmetics Database run by the Environmental Working Group.

    Most deodorants are available in an unscented version, so that’s not an issue. Many people are sensitive to strong scents. I see no problem banning them in a workplace where people work in close proximity to one another and may not be able to open windows. Some scents are so heavy that they linger in the air long after the person wearing them has left the area.

  • Lynn Corrall

    The issue here has nothing to do with the scent that the employee was wearing but the fact that the employer failed to address the problem that the employee was having. It certainly would have been easier to ask the perfumed employee to not wear perfume at work than to have to enact a policy that affected everyone.

    Does the employee deserve $100K, I don’t think so, but if we learn anything from this situation it is to directly address employee’s complaints in a timely manner and if possible to reduce or eliminate the issue. It serves as a reminder to all of us to take employee complaints seriously, especially when dealing with ADA issues!

  • Davina

    Wow!! $100,000!? I wonder what type of medical bill was covered with that sum of money? I agree, definitely sounds like lawsuit abuse and poor inhouse management. Personally, I AM a “foo foo” girl and LOVE nice smelly things, but when my co-workers expressed their opposite opinion, I cordially toned down my “vanilla bean’ plugs and used less “japanese musk”. Reminder, this is your place of work, not your home.

  • Robert

    There are people who are affected by loud scents and smells. This can be life threatning. This could have been a customer or anyone in the general public. In some caes the combination of pefumes. scented air sprays, deoderants and the like can cause other major problems. I say the judge was right to grant the award. The city of Detroit should have stepped up and done what was right in the first place.

  • Jenna

    I agree that this was a management problem, but failing getting assistance from her employer, I think the employee had every right to persue it legally. It’s unfortunate that it had to go this far.

    I am allergic person with occasionally severe allergies to certain fragrances. For instance anything with an eucalyptus fragrance will induce asthma, just the smell of curry will give me a migraine, and the women’s purfume Poison and the men’s Obsession can do both.

    Because I know of many of my triggers I am able to avoid them a lot of the time. However, in a work environment, I am unable to control what and how much others wear. I sometimes have problems when an employee needs to speak with me privately. Getting closed in my office with thier over-the-top fragrance often induces my asthma. And then I must leave my office and get fans running to move the fragrance out until it clears. Sometimes this takes up to 30 minutes. I don’t have a window to open, and have no control on which employees I can or cannot help. I’m it for HR, so it’s me or no one. God forbid, I get stuck in an elevator with someone wearing something to which I’m allergic.

    I am not the only one in our company who has this issue. We have tried implementing a voluntary fragrance-free workplace. But surprise, surprise! The worst offenders are the most offended about not wearing their fragrance, or toning it down. I actually had a man close himself in my office to tell me he had to wear his cologne (Men’s Obession, of course) because of medical reasons. OMG! Right! Does his right to wear smelly cologne surpass my right to breathe? I think not!

    So, for those of you who roll your eyes at people complaining about other’s fragrance, do me a favor: Get a cocktail straw, and try breathing through it for 15 mintues, see how you feel. Now imagine that your nearest co-worker is wearing a fragrance that you react to, forcing you to breathe through that straw, every day. Maybe you’ll change your mind.

  • Lexx

    I have been singled out on 3 occasions regarding my “scent”. (One of the confrontations was due to NOT wearing anti-perspirant.) Hence, I have stopped wearing any perfume/cologne to work. The problem I have with being confronted is that I was told days AFTER the fact that, supposedly, SEVERAL co-workers had to leave work because “something” I was wearing was making them ill. If someone becomes ill, wouldn’t that behoove the employer to tell the person right away?!
    And, you can create all of the policies that you want, but what do you do about those employees who refuse the comply? and what about visitors?
    Historically, I have found that if the person in questions is un-approachable, management DOES NOT confront them; instead those types are tolerated, vs. a person who is open to communication, will hear negative feedback more often.

  • http://Somethingsmellsfishy Tom

    The tyranny of the smallest minority continues. More pet peeve complaints turned into power and profit. When is this all going to end. Next, people with bad breath will be forced to wear unscented masks. Clothing will have to stop being washed. Granted, some very small number of people could have a sensitivity issue, but that could be dealt with in any number of different ways besides a universal policy. Like all “zero tolerance” policies, they really are a metaphor for zero common sense. This world is not “scent free”, so look for all stores, cars, and public places to be “cleansed” of all odors or offensive smells. It proves the point that one rotten apple can spoil the barrel.

  • Linda

    My daughter has severe allergies to perfumes. Allergy specialists are not cheap. Nor are the tests and the treatments. My daughter was quoted $140.00 for weekly shots just to lessen the severity of her allergic reactions. Thats $7,280.00 a year. So a settlement for $100,000 isnt that large considering what it may have cost McBride while she was enduring the co-workers perfume.
    It’s too bad that not enough people and/or companys are simpathetic to others that have allergies, especially the City of Detroit. They could have saved themselves and Mcbride a Lot of money. This IS a real disability.

  • http://Somethingsmellsfishy Tom

    I can appreciate that some people have issues but, come on, this is not a disability. I, too, have allergies and asthma but I don’t expect everyone to yield to my every desire that they modify their behavior. A better approach is to ask for cooperation in removing the most bothersome scents and issues. Runnig to the courts to control your neighbors and co-workers is the most imperfect way of handling personal issues. Too many people seek “authorities” to control their neighbors and co-workers in an attempt to remove personal contact and dialogue. As these “control” rules, regulations and laws continue to mount, everyone must give up their freedoms and choices and the consequence is an ever tightening grip over behavior. Soon, every public space will have to be “free” of every scent, smell, or odor in search of a sanitized world where no one is offended while at the same time everyone is offended.

  • Tim

    Why are so many people dismissve of peoples breathing difficulties? Do they feel the same way about someone in a wheelchair? Tell them to just get out of thier wheelchair and walk/crawl up those stairs. That is what you are doing when you roll your eyes and say that it is just a pet peeve when people complain that they can not breath around heavy perfume.

  • Kim Waxman

    My first comment has to be “enough with frivolous law suits” The City may have not even saw a law suit had they handled the situation properly from the get go. The first thing the City should have done would be to address the employees compaint in writting. They should have stated in writting that the employee’s complint has been noted and we are currently working on a solution but due to the sensitve nature of your complaint this could take some time resolve. Now this City can run the gambet of solutions within the organization hopefully to find the perfect resolve that doesn’t effect everyone.

    Sincerely,

    Kim Waxman
    Office Manager

  • Michael

    It IS NOT a disability! What a bunch of nonsense, the inmates are running the asylum in this country and it has to stop or these parasitic lawyers and their simpleton clients will bankrupt this country. Tom is absolutely correct….we will lose more and more freedoms if we don’t put a stop to this type of insanity.

  • Jenna

    Thank you Tim. A voice of reason!

  • Lynn Corrall

    I beg to differ with Michael when he states that an allergy is a disability. Has anyone ever heard of a Latex Allergy! Some of these folks cannot even wear certain types of underwear due to the latex in the elastic. They can’t ride in a car due to the latex in the car interior. I would call that a disability.

    Once again as many have stated the problem is not with the employee here, but with the city’s failure to address the issue. If they had taken the time to work with this employee to resolve the issue the lawsuit may never have happened. Maybe all they would have needed to do was to move the employee’s work station to another area in the office to satisify. It is unfortunate that the employee saw no other recourse to resolve the issue than to get a lawyer. Employers need to be sensitive to their employees concerns at all times and by keeping an open avenue of communication with their employees lawsuits of this variety can be avoided.

  • http://Somethingsmellsfishy Tom

    Tim, I am not being dismissive of a condition from which I suffer but your comparison to not being able to walk and having a breathing condition that can be controlled by medication or by “walking” away from the cause fails miserably. Comparing them is hyperbole that doesn’t advance the debate and is designed to try and claim the moral high ground and cut off a reasoned debate of the rights of the individual versus the rights of a group. Your comparison is incongruent. My point is that we need to take the emotion out of these situations and deal with it on a person to person basis rather than seeking the anominity of having a court or other authority impose a broad based solution to a specific problem. Its like firing a cannon when a BB could do the job. In my opinion, going to court to impose your will on someone else (everyone else) should be the last step, not the first. And, if the altruistic goal was to have an accommodation made for the condition, why seek a menetary award (reward).

  • Rhonda

    Well said, Michael!

  • http://Somethingsmellsfishy Tom

    Lynn, you have an overly broad view on what is a disability. I suspect that it is so ill defined that nearly every person has some type of “disability” that can be used to control others. I imagine that mental issues as well as anything that produces uncomfortable physical issues could be shoehorned into this broad definition. In the case at hand, I see many future cases of Ablutophobia being made by co-workers. You also presume that this empoyee’s goal was only for an accommodation and that there was no secondary gain (hit the legal lottery for bucks) consideration. Why settle for six figures when she had made her point and forced a new regulation. My guess, money was the primary motivator. And your comments buttress that argument. There are any number of people willing to “send a message” to employers and they are highly prized by the plaintiffs’ bar. I just hope you are on my jury when I bring my Liticaphobia case.

  • dannie

    So if the person has BO, bad breath or even has a gas issue, the “management” should be responsible because people do not have good hygiene policies? I certainly do not want to work near a stinky person, but it is the company’s issue to control people’s personal habits? No of course not because there would be another law suit for violating a person’s civil liberties. Will I not be allowed to eat a snicker’s bar because someone in the building may or may not have a peanut allergy? This will be the ultimate demise of this country, frivolous lawsuits and trying to accommodate every single person until there is nothing left because we are too overly concerned with being PC.

  • Jeff

    Growing up with a brother that was asthmatic, I can sympathize… Growing up in America, I can’t… People, this is the greatest nation in the world and we are slowly taking it to it’s grave. Trying to give a monetary example above of $140 a shot does not justify the $100,000 they got. Workman’s comp would have covered that medical bill if it was proven that the condition was aggrivated through the negligence of the employers moral duty to fix the problem. It’s sad when you exploit the ADA to receive a $100,000 band-aid.
    I got crushed behind a faulty machine years ago. I was told by my Dr’s and the comp Dr’s that I would never work again in my life. I had to sue worker’s comp for lost wages cause they weren’t paying me while I was off. I ultimately got $31,000 for lost wages and started receiving my regular salary after that so I could live. If I would have gotten another attorney I probably could have sued for $500,000 or more but where was I entitled to that money. Morally and ethically $500,000 was not warranted. They are responsible for my wages and medical when I get hurt not my ego… I am back to work. Those who sue for big purses are sueing for there own ego’s and pride and their sense or entitlement not caring about how it is going to be paid for. We ALL pay for this. Stop the insane law-suits.

  • Lynn Corrall

    Tom, your point is well taken. Unfortunately, liberal judges have broadened the definition to the point where it is easy for everything to be a disability. Money in fact was probably this employee’s motivating factor. Having worked in a lot of industries over the years I have seen many employers who fail to address employee issues which gives rise to this type of suit. Unfortunately the legal community has left everything open to litigation. All you have to do is check spam e-mail or watch TV to get a feeling for what is happening in society. I just hope that other employers will learn from this particular case and not be so afraid to address employee issues. Conflict issues should be addressed not ignored.

  • TEXASBIGFOOT

    It would have probably been easier to ask the co-worker not to wear perfume, but then the co-worker would probably file a law suit saying that her personal right to wear perfume was violated. LOL, but probably true in these days and times.
    What can you say? There are several alternate solutions to this issue. Why didn’t they just separate the two workers? It’s not clear in this article but apparently the company didn’t take the correct steps to find a solution to the issue, which obviously led to the law suit. If the company had taken steps to find a solution, there may not have been a law suit. Sometimes, employees just get frustrated with the company when there is a Health & Safety Issue that is not being taken seriously.
    The company I work for is a wax blending company. Sometimes, in the lab, we make candles, especially during the holidays. We have a couple of employees that are sensitive to the scent oils. One lady left work early because the scent bothered her so much. Since I don’t have that problem, I can’t imagine being bothered by scents, but it is a real issue for others. We try to accomadate them by making the candles in an area where they won’t be affected. Down the line, if necessary, we will stop making scented candles.
    I do have a food alergy that once caused my throat to swell. It was a scary experience, which ended with a trip to the Emergency Room. I can identify with the lady in that respect.

  • Steff

    What is wrong with this picture? We are a sue happy society that depends on others to deal with our conflicts. My former employer had an issue with “scents” and they simply placed verbiage in the job description that stated the candidate had to be able to with stand different scents. Now mind you these were biological scents and NOT human scents. The person who originally complained was accommodated and moved to a different area. What we do not know in this case is how many times McBride complained. If she made numerous complaints that went unanswered I can see the situation escalating, but in reality the first action is LAW SUIT……I wish people would wake up and SMELL the “scents” we are allowing the courts to take all our freedoms away little by little.

  • http://Somethingsmellsfishy Tom

    I couldn’t agree more with everyone on trying to accommodate the employee but my sense (no pun intended) is that this is one of those employees who resists ANY reasonable accommodation and wants everyone to bow to her will. In most circumstances, these types of cases don’t get to the point of six figures unless one side had dug in, not on principle, but on how much money it will take to make the problem go away. The types of plaintiffs can wear an employer down by making the cost of defense more than the amount demanded. Not many entities, private or public, are up for Pyrrhic victories and the plaintiff bar knows that. If we had a loser pays system, we would make these types of plaintiffs think twice. Unfortunately, the legislatures are full of sympathetic lawyers who chant the line that making a loser pay hurts the downtrodden and that the contigency fee system is designed to make the playing field level for people without means. A Siren’s song that is designed to sound simple and fair but one that allows for major abuse.

  • http://www.plantscapes.com Wylie

    I work with one of those people who, as soon as they open the door you know they are there! The smell is over whelming, my eyes start burning and watering and My thoat starts closing up. Tell me why I should have to work in that kind of enviroment. I have asked my employer many times to address the issue. They do, it works for a bout a week an then its back to having to open the front door to air out the office. As the Safety and Coordinator for my company I would think that I would not have to keep going back to ask for this to change. I realize that this is a sensitive subject and we don’t want to “offend” the empoyee, but what about offending me and the other employees who complain? After being told we would now have a written policy about wearing scents, oh about a month ago ther has been no action taken. What happens the next time? Do I just go open the doors again or, do I take it farther. I suppose it depends on my mood and how aggressive I decide to be about it. I do think that I should have the right to take whatever action needed to solve the issue if my empoyer wont. I have also had to ask an employee to go home and shower be fore he could come back to work. I can’t send my employees into an attorneys office smelling like he has’nt bated in a month! We are a service industry business and can not loose accounts because we don’t care how our employees smell, body odor or perfume. What it all boils down to is common courtesy. There is a time and place for heavy perfumes and body odor, the workplace is not that place. I’m all for getting rid of the frivolous lawsuits but if the comany is not willing to make the hard desicion to repremand the employee for fear of “hurting feelings” then I believe an employee has the right to do what is necessary to resolve the situation themselves if the employer will not.

  • Anon

    April Fool’s Joke perhaps? It was posted on the First.

  • http://www.safetynewsalert.com Fred Hosier

    Editor’s note in response to Anon: No, it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke. True case.

  • Jeff

    Wylie,
    As the Safety Coordinator it is your responsibility to change and implement new policy. You are responsible for the overall safety and well being of the employees. It’s up to you to get management on the same page. As the safety coordinator you are the one that will take the fall if you aren’t in compliance. One thing to think about it starting up a safety committee. You need 2 employee representatives and 2 employer representatives. With a committee you have more clout to propose changes to management.

  • Charlene

    Ridiculous! It will get to the point where we won’t be able to wear perfume, deodorant, after shave etc. anywhere but at home! Did the employee go in for allergy treatments? Oh, and it’s not the City of Detroit that’s paying that $100,000.00, it’s the taxpayers! It sounds like she might have been allergic to work too! If I lived in Detriot, especially since we are in this economic depression, I would definitely be voicing my opinion about having to fork money out of my pocket to pay for this.. Oh, and by the way, I am allergic to pollen, who do I sue? the Federal Goverment, State, City, County??

  • Ben

    Remember, for every 1 (one) person that complained, many suffered in silence so that they would not embarrass a co-worker.

    I sympathize with this person, I have left previous jobs due to one particular smell in the workplace and that is popcorn, the smell of popcorn makes me physically ill, I vomit. I am not allergic to popcorn but I have a very disturbing memory that the smell of popcorn brings to the forefront. I am lucky to have an employer who I could sit down with and explain the situation and the office area I work in is popcorn free and the other offices in the company are compassionate and call me if they are going to pop some in the microwave.

    I however would leave a job before bring a lawsuit. but thats just me.

  • Steff

    It is management’s responsibility to speak to the offenders. Management should not be “afraid” to pull an employee aside and tell them about their personal Hygiene if it is bothersome to more than one employee. This is getting off the topic of safety though. What is the safety issue? The issue is someone’s reaction to a particular scent. Can this be cnsidered a safety issue? Obviously this one was. We do not have all the facts, maybe there were several complaints from several other employees. We all have to remember that when an incident occurs we have to look at the big picture, was it an isolated incident or could it happen again?

  • Bryan

    Filing lawsuits over fragrance use in the workplace? Aren’t we getting a little too sensitive here? IF someone is actually allergic to a fragrance, their throat would have nothing to do with it. And even if it did – whose throat closes “a little”?

    Only in America.

  • Betty

    I work in the suburbs of Detroit. The managment team for the City of Detroit handled this problem very poorly. They have enough financial issues and this w/c suit justs adds to their long list of problems. My health care facility and many other facilities have a scent free work place and has been for many years. Many of the employees and patients have respiratory complaints when exposed to perfumes and lotions. We developed a policy of baning perfumes and scented lotions for everyone, so everyone can breathe. Breathing is a life activity that a person can not live without it.

  • Captain Safety

    REDICULOUS DECISION. TOTAL BS. I am sorry, and I know we have to breathe, BUT THIS IS WAY YONDER TOO FAR!!! I have to change my deodorant for fear of being dismissed from my job? Think about it! Lets ban peanut butter crackers from the vending machines, strong coffee in the break room, my mother in laws leftover casserole for lunch, the occasional burnt popcorn in the microwave, not to mention bodily functions in company restrooms while we are at it – all of those can make one queasy at times, maybe even sick. LETS GO FOR A SCENTLESS SOCIETY. LET’S JUST TRAMPLE THE RIGHTS OF MANY FOR THE CONVENIENCE OF ONE… Just Rediculous. No wonder Detroit is in the shape it’s in.

  • http://www.safetynewsalert.com/employee-wins-100k-over-allergy-to-co-workers-perfume/ Greg

    I think it was over kill…it will lead to other employees aroung the US to make claims to see if their employer will comply to their wishes…the judge should have granted the judgement against the City of Detroit for its lack of managment response to resolve the situation. Secondly, if she is that allergic to a perfume, what if customers come into her working area? Does she tell them to leave and come back when they are scent free? And if they don’t leave and managment doesn’t act, does she sue again? Are there signs at the entrance forbidding persons from entering who are wearing scented products? If I’m working in the same office as her…no deodorant for me. Hope she’s allergic to stank in the afternoon! And if she’s wearing scented make-up, hair products, etc….its got to go also. I can hear it already, Detroit ranks as the stinkiest city…its only a matter of time when people see the dollars signs this judge held out.

  • Kim Waxman

    I had replied to one of Tom’s responses and was waiting on his, but it would seem this may not happen. My response is nowhere to be found. What happened?

  • http://www.safetynewsalert.com Fred Hosier

    Editor’s note:

    Kim,

    A reply from you on April 7 was posted. If you tried to post another one, it did not make it into the system. If there’s another comment you’d like to make, you can leave a reply again.

  • TEXASBIGFOOT

    To Kim Waxman
    SUE!!! You didn’t get equal response time! LOL

  • Kim Waxman

    I did have a second posting addressed to Tom. It was left on 4/8/10 at 12:14. It said my comment was awaitning moderation. I haven’t heard why it didn’t make it through moderation. I did however have a spelling error, was this the problem?

    Kim

  • http://www.safetynewsalert.com Fred Hosier

    Kim,

    I don’t know what happened to your reply. Just post it again.

  • Tim

    It is amazing how many think that thier right to wear stinkem purty is more important then someone elses right to breathe.

  • Kim Waxman

    Tom,

    I really like the way your mind works. Have you ever thought about blogging your views and getting them out there. I would have asked you how you feel about politics but I think I know the answer to that one. Seriously, our civil liberties are under attack like never before and the general public is fueling the already Insidious fire with all these frivolous law suits as well as their Inability to take care of things on their own. Currently I feel like I live in a world full of children. Adults, if they even exist, need to step up and be accounted for. We need to know more than ever, you are out there taking care of business. People need to stop looking for that pot of gold or someone to lead them to it and instead work for it. I am praying for some sensibility in this nation and I would encourage everyone to do the same, before we become a “Cocktoe Society”. For those of you who don’t know what I mean by that, go out and rent the movie Demolition Man.

    Sincerely,

    Kim Waxman

  • http://Somethingsmellsfishy Tom

    Kim, thank you for your kind remarks. I don’t maintain a blog and normally don’t get engaged in commentary but we are in a very strange political period in American history and that fact has awakened any number of otherwise passive conservatives who for too long have sat on the sidelines as observers of the political spectacle. As a political hobbyist, observation has been a quite interesting but it is now time to move to an active phase of pointing out the fundamental changes in our political system and social fabric that are pernicious. I intend to continue to spotlight the issues and trends that I see as detrimental but not with a formal blog. Again, thanks for your thoughts. Take care.

  • Chuck

    Yep some people are only one law suit from becoming financially independent.

  • Nancy

    Perhaps we’re losing sight of the fact that the main problem was the employer’s failure to deal with the situation. Apparently it took $100,000 to even get their attention, and then it still took a court order to get them to act.

  • http://Somethingsmellsfishy Tom

    Nancy, as an Insurance and Risk person, I am a bit confused over how you reached your conclusion. that the employer is the intransigent party. I would invite you to consider both sides of this controversy, i.e, that the plaintiff was unapproachable. If that is the case, one must consider the reasons why this matter went as far as it did. By the way, the article doesn’t mention a court order or even a judgment. The parties agreed to this via a settlement that included a financial payment along with the development of a restricting workplace regulation. I have mentioned the need for the monetary portion of the settlment as being superflous if the crux of the issue was truly an attempt to get the employer’s attention and modifiy the workplace environment.

  • CA

    I too can not be around strong smells. But for me it is not a problem of my thoat closing a little. Is the fact that it can send me into a major asthma attack. We can and has sent me to the hospital.

    But unlike Susan McBrides employer. My employer has made every accomodatation then can for me.
    No one in the office wears perfumes or colognes. No one uses scented lotions or bath products.

    When anyone comes in for job interviews they are told what day we do the hiring, and asked to please not wear and perfumes, colognes or anything with scents because I am highly sentitive to these product. And everyone is very understanding of this.

  • Nana03

    Obviously, you have never had a “chemically induced” migraine, or you would keep your mouth shut!
    Migraine headaches are triggered by cologne and perfume, and you are right, you cannot get away from them at work, especially when your co-workers seem to bathe it in. I deal with chronic migraine headaches that include blurred vision, dizziness, nausea and extreme head and eye pain. Do you honestly think you could work if you got hit with that almost every day whenever you got to work? These are toxic chemicals that we are all exposed to every day, and some of us are made extremely sick by them. We cannot smoke in the office, so why do we have to breathe in the toxic poisons of someone else’s cologne.

  • Nana03

    CA, you are very fortunate to work with intelligent, understanding people. I salute your employer because he has the back-bone and integrity to do the right thing! It does not physically hurt anyone to leave their colognes and scented lotions at home, but it physically hurts me to have to be in the same building with them.

  • Chuck

    For some reason some people seem to think the world owes them an income. If you decide to get a job that you are not physically capable of performing, what should you do? A. Continue working until you wear out; B. File a claim; or C. Find another job?

    If migranes were the cause for the discomfort get medical help, for crying out loud.

  • Captain Safety

    I sympathize with anyone who has had or currently experiences migraines. I get them from time to time. Do I think someone deserves 100K, because he get’s one – NO. Do I think I should have to use unscented deodaorant – NO. Now, if it is a workplace issue – establish a policy, communicate and enforce it. I totally disagree with the “Can I have my own policy?” approach. Personally, I would approach the offenders, explain that I get very sick by strong odors, and ask that as a favor we tone it down…

  • Nana03

    Chuck, would you like a list of all the doctor’s I have been to and the medications I have taken, or better yet, how about I send you my medical bills? NOTHING completely prevents or stops a migraine, and the medications have terrible side effects too. I am not saying anyone should ask for money, I’m just saying they have a CIVIL RIGHT to go to work and do their job without getting sick or suffering in severe pain.

  • http://Somethingsmellsfishy Curious

    Nano03, I am a bit curious on what you do the 6,680 hours in the year that you aren’t at work. You must make some accommodation for the actions of others, or do you insist that everyone bow to your will. I think individual rights are important but not to the point of blugeoning everyone else’s life activities.

  • Imogen

    This is a bit disturbing. I suffer from strong perfume allergies myself, but I do not expect everyone around me to stop wearing their favorite scents. Certain fragrances make me nauseous and throw up. Rule of thumb: when I know I’m allergic to something, I avoid it. In the work place, when I was allergic to a cubicle mate’s scent (she did love lathering strawberry smells to a sickening degree), I told her about my allergies very nicely. She was kind enough to stop taking her Bath & Body Works to work. In another office, when I found that I was once again next to someone whose scent I was allergic to, I asked if I could be relocated to another work station that was empty anyway. This worked for me, too. No one was sued, offended or imposed upon, and I continued to be productive. My friends understood my situation and didn’t take it against me.

    McBride could have just talked to her co-worker, explained the situation and have the scent toned down. Likewise, management could just provide a section for people who were allergic to fragrances, just as people in wheel chairs have ramps for their convenience–that way, everybody is happy. It is just a matter of logistics and compromise.

  • Captain Safety

    Imogen – you are a voice of reason in a forest of confusion. Excellent, no lawsuit, no policy, everybody is happy.

    I am so disapointed that some feel entitled to never encounter discomfort, and when things are not perfect, they automatically turn to the court system, spurring animosity in an otherwise peaceful workplace, instead of communicating effectively to determine something that works for everyone…and don’t anyone attempt to tell me that was not a possiblity in this case!

  • Nana03

    No, Curious, but I can walk away from the toxic chemicals away from work. Whenever we are confined to an office, we do not have that option. Do you have to wear cologne in order to perform your job? NO, but I have to be able to see, think, and not throw up to perform my job. And that is impossible when you have a debilitating migraine.

  • http://Somethingsmellsfishy Curious

    Nana03, Toxic Chemical, isn’t that a bit of hyperbole? And, so you are able to take some action while away from work to avoid or mitigate any problems. I can appreciate your problem but my point was that there are any number of steps that can be taken to help your situation other than litigation. That is all I, and a number of other contributors, have been attempting to convey.

  • Captain Safety

    I have had migraines due to overscent. I have communicated with the persons who wore too much perfume, we have resolved the issues, without difficulty. That is the whole point. This case used a sledge hammer to kill a fly…it should never have progressed to the court system and been a mandate for everyone. What is next? sunlight is too bright – it gives me headaches, I sue and every business must be windowless? You think that is far out? I would have never thought thousands of employees must now switch soaps and deodarants to comply with a policy in order to get their paycheck – there seems to be no end, no matter how bizarre the subject material is. I do not know of anyone who is not allergic or has a reaction to something – where does it end?

  • Tim

    Captain Safety you show a lack of understanding of the problem and like so many others are therfore dismissive of what others go thru. We are not talking a encountering discomfort. This is something that makes you sick and unable to do your job. Spurring animosity in an otherwise peaceful workplace. You are calling people that do try to find a solution complainers and brand them as troublemakers. And yes this woman may have run out of options. If you read the article she had complained to her supervisors and nothing was done.
    90 % of the people that I work with are understanding and willing to work with me. But you always have that 10% who do not care or are dismissive of any problem. They ruin it for everyone and it is worse when they are a manager, or the manager does not want to offend them. As for quiting my job, that is not an option I have a family to support.

  • Derek

    I am very happy for all of you out there that have no allergic problems and hope your life will continue that way. The truth is though that many people aren’t that lucky. I arrived home one day to find my girlfriend lying over the kitchen counter gasping for air. I had to take her to the emergency ward and 9 hours and $1300.00 later was able to bring her home. She is a dental hygenist and a patient in another room who decided to bath in perfume before going to the dentist was the cause of her asthmatic reaction. She has not had this problem all of her life. It started when she was in her 40′s. Is she supposed to quit her job of 35 years. 10 years ago I had a heart attach and when in rehab I noticed a sign on the door that said “This is a fragrence free zone”. I was able to witness exactly what they ment by that one day when a lady decided to ignore that. She was not asked to please not wear strong fragrences anymore in the facility, and she was not saked to leave. SHE WAS ESCORTED OUT OF THE ENTIRE BUILDING! Myself I feel this is what should happen to EVERY person who goes into the public and quit honestly threatens the lives of some people. If you want to bath in the crap wash it off before you come near me or mine!

  • Linda

    There seems to be a paragraph unread from this story here.
    She DID complain, with no response from the city.

    “City of Detroit employee Susan McBride filed her lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). She claimed the city failed to reasonably accommodate her allergy after she complained that a co-worker’s perfume made it difficult for her to breathe.”

    Here is also a quote from the Detroit news.

    “The city initially fought it on the grounds that there was no medical diagnosis of her condition and that she is not disabled.”

    If you read the whol story you will learn that she did indeed prove in court that she did have a medical disability.

    From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100314/METRO/3140308/1409/rss36#ixzz0lHuoXd7H

  • Captain Safety

    Tim, you are misinterpreting my words. There are other ways to solve problems than through the court system…

  • http://Somethingsmellsfishy Senseless

    My how people glom onto the “many” to confuse the issue. The point is that a FEW people have these issues. Bootstrapping an argument for a an univeral ubiquitous “fragerence free” environment by referring to “many” is an attempt to deflect the discussion. I was at my wife’s oncology office yesterday and say the same sign but that was due to an increased sensitivity from chemotherapy. One can surely understand the need for such a policy in a medical environment but asking to have it everywhere is not acceptable. There are countless “individual” sensitivities and a society cannot yield to every real or imagined personal issue. These are life situations that must be dealt with by the individual adapting, not forcing adaption on everyone else. The point is that thousands of idiosyncratic issue if left to develop into specific regulations will create situations where nearly everyone will violate them on a routine basis, which eventually will lead to a total loss of respect for every regulation. Personal interaction is what is needed, not government fiats.

  • Nana03

    Way to go, Derek.

  • TEXASBIGFOOT

    Just as many other debates over health issues such as back problems, etc. we have those that can be empathetic and those that can’t. Some people just can’t understand other people’s plight until it happens to them Then, as Oprah puts it, they have a “light bulb” experience. We that are empathetic have to show our empathy for them, for they are surrounded only by what they believe to be true. The real world truth is that many people have many different issues and just because you don’t have the same issue, doesn’t mean that you condem those that do.
    Let me see; if I had a coworker with a scent allergy, would I rather see them possibly die or be in pain, and smell good, or see them be a productive coexisting fellow human and me not wear all that smellum? Ask yourself, which would you choose. That will tell you what type person you are.

  • Linda

    Amen TEXAS! Very well said.

  • Tim

    But when you exhaust your options, then what do you do? Taking more medication is not always an option. Quiting you job is not an option. Talking to people that refuse to listen option wears thin real fast. So what do you do then?
    I agree that most of the lawsuits out there are unneccesary and people are just looking for a big payday.

  • Captain Safety

    I feel empathy for anyone that suffers, period. I get a sick feeling when I come into contact with strong fragrances/odors. I have had the problem in the past of people either not practicing good hygeine or over fragrancing themselves. I have also not had any issues when I CONFRONTED THE ABUSER – many times they do not even know that it is an issue. I do not agree that an order by a judge is the way to go for this issue. I believe a lot of people should get off the horse named VICTIM, and stop suing for every individual slight they feel is owed them. I am tired of hearing the sob stories when the first thing they do is get a lawyer, and settle for $$$. If it is not money – why the payout – isn’t the mandated policy enough to fix the problem?

  • http://www.neumeyerenvironmental.com SafeTAS

    All I can say is WOW… First and foremost, this should have never entered the legal arena. Managers are taxed with managing an issue like this whether they want to or not. Second, if you cannot breath at work because of a scent, perhaps you should try to find a career that better facilitates your limitations. I state this is in all seriousness because I consider this to be a fairly significant limitation for an employee in most circumstances. Specifically, if you are willing (or eager) to sue over someone’s scent, what would your reaction be to a disagreeable scent from a customer, client, auditor, superior, or someone else who influences a businesses bottom line? Please, the bigger issue here is that it will happen again now that it has been entertained at all, and for an entire myriad of reasons.

  • Tim

    First I do not agree with filing a lawsuit. But anyone who states that you should just start a new career/or get a new job. Is very much misguided and I would hope they are not in a position of influence. These same people would just brand anyone that files a complaint as a troublemaker. Is this how you realy want to treat someone with a legitamate complaint?

  • Kim Waxman

    To All Who have participated:

    I haven’t heard mention of her application process and her Interview with the City when she was hired on. My point being, most applications ask the question “do you have a disability or situation that may inhibit your ability to perform your job”? That would be the time to come clean so the City can prepare to accommodate you. We really don’t have all the facts, but lawsuits should be the last resort and not before mentioning to your employer, that you are willing to go that far if needed. You can get further with honesty and integrity, than dishonesty and un-loyality. The world can’t change for individuals, only the majority that is how this country was designed. We need to start taking more responsibility for our selves and our short comings. We need to learn how to adjust to our disabilities by making it your responsibility to find a job, hobby, whatever that best suits you. We need to remember the adage “you know best what is good for you”. Dependency seems to be the method of today’s youth and adults alike. Depenency only promotes ignorance, and we have enough of that already. My wish for the good of mankind is that everyone will grow a conscience.

    Sincerely,

    Kim Waxman

  • Glenn

    It’s a great world we live in where there is always something and someone to blame for anything that offends or impacts us in a negative way. No more do we have to worry about coping or adjusting or even discussing, just sue.

  • Chuck

    Before all the do gooders regulate this country away, consider the following: What about the person who decides to work at a nursing home where the odor of urine is ever present — should he/she sue the nursing home for the odor or the elderly who can’t control their bladder? The same goes for zoologist and farm workers. How about the life guard that developes skin cancer or some skin problem after sun exposure? How about the obese employee that cannot be fitted for a Personal Protective guarment. Do we owe him/her a job that requires wearing PPE? Hey what about the babysitter who cannot stand kids? How about the fat slob that cannot climb a ladder or sit behind a stearing wheel?

    If the environment (I’m not talking about 1910 issues) isn’t to your liking get another job!

  • Chuck

    Nana03 Sorry to hear you’re sickly but what does that have to do with the price of tea in China. People do get sick. Some get well, some get better, and some die. I have to wonder if you caused the illness yourself by poor life choices.

  • Jenna

    Hello everyone. What a hornet’s nest this article has stirred up. Chuck, wow, let some of that anger go. The issue here is that the company did nothing to assist the employee. She did not choose to work in a purfume manufacturing plant, this was a co-worker who was over-indulging in their chosen scent. As HR pros, it is important that we remain professional in these situations. While choosing to address personal hygeine regardless of reason is difficult, it is preferable to spending thousands of dollars in legal fees due to failure to address an issue. It certainally would have saved this company, and the employee a lot of trouble.

  • Chuck

    Jenna what planet do you come from? We spend way too many dollars to make a very small minority of workers comfie at work. Too what point is enough enough? Aren’t you infringing on the person wearing the perfume right to expression and subject to a civil rights suit? What about confront a person who has some foul body odor that is caused by something that is protected by the ADA? One of the underling reasons for businesses moving abroad are the needless regulations and associated costs to pamper a small number of people.

  • Wylie

    Chuck, Ill ask you the same question you asked Jenna. What planet do you come from? This is not a forum for your personal attacks, on people voiceing their opinions on the issue. Name calling does not help your point of view. (Fat slobs) Or telling nana03 that it is probably her own fault for being sick because of life choices. I can tell that you are not going to budge on your opinion but that does not give you the right to be rude and obnoxious and to talk down to the rest of us. We are all supposed to be professional. Grow up!

  • Chuck

    Why pussy foot around Wylie? You cannot set out to be all things to all people. Otherwise we would all have to be living in a plastic bubble (maybe that isn’t a good product since some one is probably allergic to plastic). I’m certainly not of the right stature to play professional football and I shouldn’t expect some NFL team to make special accomodations for me to play one of their possitions.

  • Jordan

    I feel the “injured worker” should have taken the correct allergy medications. How did she react when she was dancing and people wore perfume? How did she react in church or at weddings when there were flowers present? People also need to take responsibility for their bodys. If you cannot see well, should the employer be responsible for forcing employees to write larger or only use large fonts or should the employee obtain glasses?

  • Chuck C

    good point Jordan

  • Tim

    Jordan, An allergy to perfume and an allergy to flowers are two different things. Also wearing glasses and having any allergy is like comparing apples to oranges. And for your other answer just take more medication. So what if the medication affects your job. That is the type of mindset people with disabilities have fought for years. People that do not care because they do not have that disability.

  • Sherry

    I find it ironic that people who are in this forum “pi$$ing and moaning” about how you may not like the odor but that is not a disability” apparently have no clue what they are talking about. And BTW, since when is having a disability a form of controlling others, since comments were made about how this is just another way of controlling people. I have this “fake disability” as you would have it. It is indeed recognized by my allergist. He actually has a sign hanging in his office that states FOR THE HEALTH OF OUR PATIENTS, PLEASE DO NOT WEAR PERFUMES, COLOGNES, ETC. I told him I would like to be able to take that sign with me everywhere I go. Just because you don’t understand the disease, doesn’t make it less real. After all, assuming you do not work in a lab, I am pretty sure you do not understand what causes Muscular Dystrophy but am fairly sure you allow for it. What is the difference? Just because you can’t see what makes it happen doesn’t mean it isn’t real.