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Foul play: Can employee sue over offensive odor comments?

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. An employee of ours has a very distinct, offensive odor. I received several complaints about the smell, so I confronted the employee, hoping to rectify the situation. Unfortunately, he did not respond well and threatened to sue. Does he have a case?

A. It depends. If the odor is related to a medical condition that qualifies as a disability under the ADA or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA), or if the odor is somehow related to a religious practice that is protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the PHRA, you may need to provide a reasonable accommodation.

You should talk to the employee and ask if the odor is related to a medical condition or a religious practice and whether he is seeking a reasonable accommodation. If the answer is yes, you should consult with legal counsel to determine whether the employee is entitled to such an accommodation and whether there is an accommodation that can be reached without undue hardship to your company.

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