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.
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.