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An ADA accommodation that doesn’t make scents

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

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.

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