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

    • Could be a farce, but allergies are no joke. I have fragrance allergies and I’ve asked my coworkers a number of times to not wear perfume or cologne to work. Management has even asked them to not wear it. We work in a small space with terrible ventilation. My coworkers don’t take me seriously and last week my throat started to close up and I had to take steroids immediately to make it stop so that I could breathe. They still don’t take me seriously after that, and I’m in awe because if someone told me they couldn’t breathe because of my perfume (I don’t wear any now but I used to), I wouldn’t even THINK of spraying or wearing it. I’m on four allergy medicines just so that I can go to work and not die. It doesn’t help 100% and they make me so drowsy. The simple solution would be for people to stop acting selfish. You’re not going to die if you don’t wear your cologne or perfume. But I literally might die if you do

      • Me too! I work in an open plan office with a woman who wears hideous old lady perfume that makes my face burn,eyes water and itch and tickly cough and sneezing. She also has one of those reed diffuser things on her desk which she managed to spill the other day. Have spoken to HR and managers with no result. Also spoken to her direct and got verbally attacked. Looking for a new job. 🙁

      • Sue Mackay says:

        That is my situation exactly. I was taking an emergency inhaler at least 4to 5 times a day. the ambulance was call. It’s chemical sensitivity. I finally took a different position so i could work at home. I do not like the new position at all and am so isolated. I feel like I had no choice..Was told since OSHA didn’t recognize this they could do nothing..sad situation

      • My coworker did the same thing today and she Purposely walked by me just so I would have a like gagging reaction it’s so potent and I have such a reaction to it so your buddy my eyes get so red I construct a cough and start my throat starts going off her perfume is just so bad but the day before it was fine but purposely today she went in the bathroom sprayed it on and walked out and it was even stronger than it was when she went in not cool. purposely walked by me just so I would have a like gagging reaction it’s so potent and I have such a reaction to it so your buddy my eyes get so red extract cough and start my throat to start going off her perfume is just so bad but the day before it was fine but purposely today she went in the bathroom sprayed it on and walked out and it was even stronger than it was when she wanted not cool.

    • Rhonda…you need an eye opener. There are millions of people out there who have scent allergies and get migraines from certain scents. It’s not all in their heads…it is medically proven. While I am not one to sue, nor have I ever sued anybody or company, however, if there is noncompliance, then something needs to be done and if it takes a lawsuit, then so be it. People in this world, need to start being more considerate of other people. If you, a sibling, or one of your own children had these issues, you’d be agreeing.

      My daughter suffers from migraines and scents are one of her triggers to include not just perfume, but even natural scents such as cinnamon and pine.

    • I’m with you Rhonda. Luckily plenty of people appreciate perfume. People with serious fragrance sensitivities: do you ever use a respiration mask? I’ve had to use them for entire workdays and it’s doable. Don’t just expect the whole world to change for you. There are people who say they suffer from electricity. Do we stop using electronic devices. I didn’t think so. It’s your problem if you can’t handle fragrance. Majority of people like fragrance and that’s why they are sold.

    • I am shocked that you have no understanding of what asthma is and how we live everyday in feet of dying. Just think of someone begging you with a loaded gun and at anytime can pull the trigger. This is how I feel every day when I out and about. I was at an athletic club doing my workout and someone on the grounds started a fire which I am extremely allergic to. I was in the hospital for days trying to breathe. Just the medical bills are crazy not included what the medication does to your health. Either way I hope that maybe the gun analogy works for you.

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

  3. 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.

    • Sometimes management DOES step up but people don’t listen. I’m having this problem at work where I can’t breathe, and I get migraines, and my throat actually started to close up and I had to take a steroid to make a stop. My coworkers don’t believe me that it affects me negatively and said they continue to wear it. Every day I’m stressed out to go to work because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to breathe. No one seems to care or they all think I’m making it up.

  4. 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.

  5. Lynn Corrall says:

    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!

    • Well said. I do wear perfume and while my opinion is that it is a good scent I have on occasion been told that it was bothersome to coworkers or clients. When approached I knew I shouldn’t be offended- there not telling me I smell bad there saying it bothers them. Simply out of courtesy I stoped using it to work and got a body oil that had no floral scent rather had a clean scent that accommodated my liking for scents while respecting others around me. Most jobs do have this in there employer policy. People need to be courteous and kind. We get paid to be at our jobs and to do a job… and work as a team. Sometimes these “stupid lawsuits” are what people see but not the point that it could’ve been just so much simpler.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

    • you obviously dont know how it affects people with multiple chemicial sensitivities. It is extremely disabling. when you cant concentrate. get instant migraines…youre throat gets raw and closes up and your chest aches in pain.

      • That’s unfortunate Elaine but it’s also your problem and you have to learn to deal with it. You can’t control what people eat, wear, use as fragrance, shampoo, body lotion etc. Wear a respiration mask if you really want to better your situation. Some people are sensitive to light, they can wear sunglasses, not shut the lights off from the whole world!

        • Amazed at the number of NAY sayers in this thread…it is this simple…it is VOC’s… Volatile Organic Compounds, granted some people are more sensitive than others, but the reality is, it is unhealthy for all. Some people are just simply more sensitive to it than others, and likely are fortunate that they are able to distinguish so quickly which toxins are harmful. The real disablility here is that some people are unable to determine they are breathing harmful agents. Being able to point out harmful chemicals in the air should be applauded and addressed, not ridiculed and marginalized.! Make no mistake, it is harmful to the lungs and has potential to cause cancer with long-term exposure. Talk about the lawsuits once they isolate and pinpoint chemicals and reactions.

  13. 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.

  14. Kim Waxman says:

    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.


    Kim Waxman
    Office Manager

  15. 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.

  16. Thank you Tim. A voice of reason!

  17. Lynn Corrall says:

    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.

  18. 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).

  19. Well said, Michael!

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

    • Hygiene has nothing to do with many people who have serious odor disorders.
      I think the woman deserved the settlement and even more so the Employer and HR person deserved to be sued for not doing anything about the employees valid complaint.

  22. 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.

  23. Lynn Corrall says:

    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.

  24. TEXASBIGFOOT says:

    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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

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

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

  30. 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.

  31. Charlene says:

    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??

  32. 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.

    • The toxic effects of popping popcorn using the manufactured scents is documented – there should be no reason for you to have to ask for accommodation.

  33. 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?

  34. 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.

    • referenced from:

      Common symptoms of a mild allergic reaction include:
      Hives (especially over the neck and face)
      Nasal congestion
      Watery, red eyes

      Symptoms of a moderate or severe reaction include:
      Abdominal pain
      Abnormal (high-pitched) breathing sounds
      Chest discomfort or tightness
      Difficulty breathing, wheezing
      Difficulty swallowing
      Dizziness or lightheadedness
      Flushing or redness of the face
      Nausea or vomiting
      Swelling of the face, eyes, or tongue

  35. 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.

  36. Captain Safety says:

    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.

  37. 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.

  38. Kim Waxman says:

    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?

  39. Editor’s note:


    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.

  40. TEXASBIGFOOT says:

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

  41. Kim Waxman says:

    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?


  42. Kim,

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

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

  44. Kim Waxman says:


    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.


    Kim Waxman

  45. 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.

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

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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.

    • You are one of the lucky ones….. most employers just see it as people being whiny or overly sensitive. I have been to the ER for breathing treatments, allergists for allergy screening all to “PROVE” that i am truly allergic to scents and such.

  50. 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.

  51. 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.

  52. 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.


      Perfumes/colognes were described in 1986 by the National Academy of Sciences as significant neurotoxins (toxic to the brain). The report stated that 95% of the chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic petrochemicals. Perfumes/colognes and scented product companies have a legal loophole to avoid telling ingredients even to doctors! All other chemical companies must do this under OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29CFR1910.1200).

      Scented products can contain mood-altering substances, which means they change brain biochemistry. US EPA analysis has shown irritant and neurotoxic chemicals in fragrances.

      Fragrances contain significant amounts of chemicals called phthalates. Phthalate chemicals damage genetic material in sperm.2 and cause birth defects in boys. This reduces ability to make male hormones (testosterone). Exposure to phthalates can reduce testosterone in men. , Phthalates accumulate in breast milk of the mother and cause abnormal hormone levels in nursing baby boys.

      Phthalate exposure can increase asthma and rhinitis. Individuals with asthma and/or other respiratory inflammation show reduced lung function with even brief exposures to scented products. , A large scientific study shows that most healthy people have lung/respiratory symptoms with scented products.10

      Research by Bell , shows increased illness from perfumes/colognes among otherwise healthy young and elderly people. Chemicals released by “air fresheners”, “air deodorizers”, and mothballs can also reduce lung function in healthy persons. Scented and unscented hairspray reduces lung function in healthy people. Standardized testing confirms respiratory irritation and brain/nerve toxic effects.

      The vast majority of people with asthma have increased symptoms and worsening of lung function with exposure to scented products.8,9
      Animal studies now show a link between phthalates and lupus.7 Lupus is a serious autoimmune disease that is rapidly increasing in numbers of affected people. Up to 1,500,000 Americans have been diagnosed with lupus7 and 16,000 more are newly diagnosed yearly.7
      Data analyzed on 90 of Dr. Ziem’s patients with chronic illness from chemical injury shows that with exposure, 58% experience illness symptoms following 20 minutes exposure to perfumes/colognes, and 65% with exposure to “air freshener” (odor masking) chemicals while using a restroom. Dr. Ziem also has patients that developed chronic brain and lung damage following repeated occupational exposures to scented products.16

      In response to these health hazards, there are increasing fragrance free policies in public places and workplaces (comparable to smoke free policy). In the large scientific study above,10 perfumes/scented products cause almost as much respiratory irritation as cigarette smoke.

  53. Captain Safety says:

    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…

  54. 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.

  55. 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.

  56. 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.

  57. Captain Safety says:

    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!

  58. 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.

  59. 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.

  60. Captain Safety says:

    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?

  61. 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.

  62. 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!

    • In this case, the dental hygienist’s allergic reaction was caused by a CUSTOMER, not another employee. How can a business be expected to police the actions of their clients.

      Also, the offending customer (patient) was in a room adjacent to the hygienist, not in the same room with her. There is no way a business has any control in this situation.

      If the hygienist is that sensitive, she probably should stay home and collect disability. I mean, if a scent emitted from a different room can send her to the emergency room, I don’t see any job where she might succeed.

      I worked as a cashier and came into contact with perfume-laden customers quite frequently. Walmart can’t do anything about it. Plus, the store is open 24 hours, so even if you worked as an overnight stocker, a scent-sporting client was apt to wander in at any hour.

      There is a lot of talk about the supposed “toxicity” of the chemicals found in perfume. If this is so, these amateur scientists need to petition the Ph.D holders at the FDA to do another evaluation of their findings.

      Ever since someone died in the 1920s from toxic mascara, the FDA has routinely reviewed all ingredients used in cosmetics, and, believe me, the ones used in the USA are deemed safe.

      Another poster above reported having an allergic reaction while riding a company elevator which was occupied by a person who smelled of cologne. The poster did not make it clear if this individual was a fellow employee or a visitor.

      But elevators are ubiquitous. They are not exclusive to the workplace. It sounds like the poster just needs to opt for the stairs, which I always do due to claustrophobia.

      The problem, for me, is the difficulty policing the actions of people that are undertaken in their personal residences. No one is spritzing fragrance on at work. The employees are applying it prior to their shift in the privacy of their homes, which are not subject to regulation.

      Also, nowadays, the luxury fragrances are long-lasting. I have literally sprayed cologne on myself for a weekend date and still smelled of it at work on Monday, even though two days had since passed (no, I had not showered in between–didn’t have time–but is that anyone’s business?

      In addition, I have experienced a situation wherein I was on a very tight budget (home in foreclosure) and was constrained to buy laundry detergent at the 99-cents store, and, you guessed it, a coworker complained (I was cologne-free, by the way).

      She actually came really close to me, positioned her nose in the vicinity of my armpit, took a deep breath, and emphatically declared that the scent of my clothing was unacceptable because she suffered from allergies. She did not, however, offer to replace my “bad” laundry detergent with a brand that bore her approval. I didn’t even know what kind I was supposed to get or how much money it would cost.

      Nevertheless, I tried my best to find a suitable substitute and used that one instead to launder my clothing, even though it cost more than my “Dollar Store” variety, and saving every penny was crucial at that point.

      She started her shift at 5am; I at 7am. As soon as I walked in our shared office at 7, she abruptly turned from doing her paperwork, shot me a disdainful cold stare, and accusingly questioned, “Are you wearing perfume?” This is how I was greeted, first thing at 7 in the morning. This is the thanks I got for trying to be understanding and accommodating.

      “No,” I apologetically replied, which was the truth. Unconvinced, she glared at me suspiciously, ascended from her seat, came extremely close to my person, and proceeded to, again, poke her nose into the vicinity of my armpit, while profoundly inhaling. “Oh,” was all she said. Must be your detergent.

      I think that the anti-discriminatory law for the disabled states that the employer must make reasonable accommodations for those suffering from disabilities, but not all accommodations can be guaranteed for every job position in every instance.

      For example, in all my years working at different Walmarts (one of the nation’s largest private employers), I have never had blind or paralyzed co-workers, but I did share schedules with deaf and mute stockers, in addition to the morbidly obese.

      Also, I never worked with someone with cerebral palsy or Alzheimers . Unfortunately, the fast-paced retail environment that is Walmart just didn’t have any types of positions for people suffering from certain types of disabilities.

      So, the anti-discrimination law doesn’t guarantee you a job, it just prohibits discrimination and ensures the promise to make REASONABLE accommodations. No job environment on earth can positively guarantee not to cause you a migraine.

      My mother suffered from anemia, always felt cold, and had horrible reactions to the air conditioner. What are you going to do? Keep everyone in a SoCal office during summer without the air conditioner on for the benefit of one person?

      When I first went to work in a gift shop, I noticed that all the windows and glass cases looked dirty and streaked. I would clean the surfaces, but to no avail. When it came time for a refill, I politely asked the manager to buy another brand of glass cleaner, since the one we were using obviously wasn’t doing the trick.

      The manager responded that we HAD to use that type of glass cleaner because it was “Ammonia-Free,” and one of the workers was sensitive to ammonia. I told her that this employee NEVER cleaned any of the fixtures, but she said that just the smell of it bothered her.

      So this gift shop endured dingy bathroom floors (from mopping with water only) and smeared display cases because one solitary worker couldn’t handle the odors. The owner subsequently closed down the store due to lack of business.

  63. 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:

  64. Captain Safety says:

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

  65. 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.

  66. Way to go, Derek.

  67. TEXASBIGFOOT says:

    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.

  68. Amen TEXAS! Very well said.

  69. 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.

  70. Captain Safety says:

    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?

  71. 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.

  72. 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?

  73. Kim Waxman says:

    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.


    Kim Waxman

  74. 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.

  75. 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!

  76. 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.

  77. 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.

  78. 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.

  79. 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!

  80. 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.

  81. 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?

  82. Chuck C says:

    good point Jordan

  83. 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.

  84. 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.

  85. i’m sure this employee is no longer working at that job. they will either fire her or make her life miserable for suing. then she’ll go, get another job and do the same thing all overagain.

  86. Jackie Southern says:

    As a parent to a teen that is almost anaphylaxis with scents it is not fun trying to get a organization to respect a severe allergy unless it is law. To all those complaining about how she should not have won, if you were allergic to something and no one care about your health enough to stop bringing/wearing said thing i think you would have a different opinion about it. I had to fight my sons school for over 1 year before they would do anything. Perfume is not to be worn at schools and even the teachers were wearing it. My son started to skip class because every day the girls would douse themselves down with it and my sons breathing would be affected. The teacher would not let him leave the class, even if she did where could he go. The girls came from some where, no place is safe for him. I eventually had to threaten the school that i was going to go to the school board. The end result that i got was for his one class he could go to a different room and do work there. Forget about following the rules even if someones health is at risk.

  87. I would love to not be allergic to perfume and artificial scents. Right now I am suffering with burning skin on my face from a co-workers ridiculous over use of perfume. She toned it down for a bit in response to my request and even had a moment of empathy where she compared it to herself being Diabetic and it would be like someone force feeding her sugar. However, her perfume use is back at full throttle. So am looking for a new job as doubling up my allergy meds is not working. If I didn’t suffer with this, I would definately be a member of the ‘it’s all in your head,stop being ridiculous!’ club.

    However,sadly I am in the burning face,affected breathing, migraine club. Sigh!! 🙁

  88. Nancy L Apfel says:

    How did this become a political issue? A person’s right to breathe clean air at work is a fundamental right. People can wear all the perfume they want in their homes cars, on their own time. I do wear a mask and such situations. But at work I am unable to because of my job which is talking on the phone. If I have to be around anyone with perfume on for any length of time I’m in the hospital that night. How about a little consideration for one another. Seems like a common courtesy to me do not want your coworker to be ill or uncomfortable. Unfortunately sometimes it takes a lawsuit with the large reward to get people to pay attention. If people and companies would just do the right thing lawsuits would be unnecessary. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. I am really appalled of all the hateful comments on here! I hope none of you ever have respiratory problems. But if you do, remember your own words.

  89. I have wickedly allergic to pot smoke and smell the smell of it on people’s clothes is enough to make me vomit and give me severe migraines and breathing problems

  90. my Coworker wears essential oils , applies this multiple times daily , in a common work / break area
    This scent literally causes me a migraine type head ache , dizziness ears ringing nausea. It interferes with my ability to complete my daily work , which I love btw .
    I’ve written numerous incident reports about it , only to be told by HR that you cannot have a sensitivity to essential oils . What ? Then why do I feel so terrible when I’m around it

  91. I have a co-worker who claims she is allergic to all fragrances yet she wears perfume and she smokes like a tar kettle. I am often a target because she is a bully and I stand up to her. Today it happened again. And I’ve got people smelling me and confirming it’s not me. She’s complaining that her tongue is swelling because she smells eucalyptus. Here’s the thing… I don’t wear perfume. I will sometimes wear two drops of lavender oil. But, because of her I’ve been asked to change my hemp shampoo, my organic lavender soap, my tide laundry detergent, even the air freshener I use in my home. I knew she was just being a b**** and targeted me to be spiteful!. So I did an experiment. Over the last year I have been randomly putting a few drops of lavender oil in the carpets at work and not a single incident or complaint the entire year from anyone. Including her. That’s when I knew she’s been faking allergies! If she’s too allergic to be at work she needs to work from home! I’m sick of being her doormat. I just noticed the maintenance guy go into her office and he’s wearing old spice. But guess what? She’s not allergic to it! Isn’t that convenient.

  92. Just an ordinary, nice, kind woman that everyone likes says:

    OK, people, seriously. Before I became allergic I would NEVER have done something that made someone else sick. I just cannot imagine that it is SO important to wear perfume, or scented deodorant or whatever if it is making people sick and YES I used to wear a certain fairly costly perfume in reasonable amounts. Then I had a friend who didn’t like it and another friend who was mildly allergic to all scents and I went to work in a chiropractor’s office where some of our patients were sensitive and then I had THE INCIDENT. My landlord, cheap bastard that he was, repaired a leak in our flat roof building and the resulting mold on my apartment ceiling also required repair. And when he repaired it by painting on the most toxic concoction imaginable with no ventilation and no notice it was enough to make me sick from the fumes. He applied it three days in a row while I was out for the day and I just thought it was my imagination that the smell of paint was so strong although I tried opening the windows and using a fan as an exhaust fan. Bingo. Instant allergy to SOLVENTS and now, not just my imagination nor my Dr’s or Allergist’s imagination either! So, everything EVERYTHING has solvents in it, every product we clean with, use on our bodies, wash our clothes and cars with, ALL of them have multiple things that would fall into this category whether you can SMELL them or not. Welcome to the world of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. And you can’t SMELL all of the chemicals so you don’t know when it’s going to reach saturation point until you can’t breathe and your joints are aching like you’re Methuselah or the headaches are 24/7 and it almost seems merciful in some moments that you just can’t think except your life is falling apart over the simplest things, like paying your rent on time because of the brain fog….and the amount of WORK to detox? saunas and skin brushing and diet to get the toxins out of your body and particularly the fat cells is like nightmare boot camp except you’re too tired and sick to do it except you know you’ll never feel better unless you just whip yourself to do as much of it as you can. Then, after a grueling period of time you feel human again! Yay! after a truly unbelievable amount of work! Except you then change jobs or get a new roommate and they just simply refuse to quit overdosing on scent, perfume applied in the morning, scented hand lotion and spray throughout the day, clothing smelling of dryer sheets and Febreeze, potpourri or diffusers of artificial scent on their desks and in a few days or weeks you’re back to being an arthritic corpse with brain fog, unceasing headaches, aches and pains in other places as well besides your joints and head, IBS and more….because people have a ‘right’ to damage you for their amusement and pleasure and they ‘know’ you’re ‘making it up’ and ‘being a whiner’ even when, in other cases, the chemicals you’re exposed to do not have a fragrance and have the identical effects. Isn’t it nice to think that all the things you use in the way of personal care products leaching into your skin and cleaning products in the home and laundry are basically made up of things that are in the category of paint thinners, lovely thought! Just share the planet and think of how it would feel if it was you or your mother or child or sweetheart suffering, it’s just not that hard.


  1. […] Employee wins $100K over allergy to co-worker’s perfume – 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 … […]

  2. […] in the US, co-workers can sue over excessive perfume in the workplace. And in this case, the company settled with the employee and is required to set up a policy on personal […]

  3. […] in the US, co-workers can sue over excessive perfume in the workplace. And in this case, the company settled with the employee and is required to set up a policy on personal […]

  4. […] in the US, co-workers can sue over excessive perfume in the workplace. And in this case, the company settled with the employee and is required to set up a policy on personal […]

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