U.S. District Judge Lawrence Zatkoff gave Susan McBride, a Detroit Planning and Development Department employee, approval to proceed with her lawsuit over a co-worker’s perfume.
McBride claims she has chemical sensitivities that make it uncomfortable and dangerous to breathe perfumes, air deodorizers and other strong smells. Her sensitivity may qualify as a protected condition under the ADA, Zatkoff ruled.
McBride worked for the department for several years without incident until a new employee joined the staff in 2006.
The woman’s perfume, along with an air freshener that she brought to work, made McBride so ill she had to leave the office, her lawsuit claims. When she complained, the co-worker unplugged the air freshener, but drew the line at going unscented.
McBride now seeks a ban on all scents in the department.
Advice: Given the federal government’s recent rewrite of the ADA, which significantly broadened workers’ protections, it’s probably better to lean in the direction of accommodation in cases like this.
- Read EEOC and PHRC complaints carefully to avoid surprise lawsuits later
- Know the limits of employee free speech—no need to tolerate out-of-line protests
- Personal liability for HR professionals?
- Help managers understand the Age Discrimination in Employment Act
- Court finds Hillsborough County did not discriminate