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January 19, 2011

The Sweet Smell of … a Lawsuit

Filed under: General HR Buzz2:55 pm

The City of Detroit learned the hard way that the process of providing a reasonable accommodation can apply to an employee who is sensitive to odors…no matter how sweet smelling.  The case involved an employee who alleged that her chemical sensitivities made her allergic to a co-worker’s perfume, making it hard to breathe.  The court, in finding for the employee, ruled that the City had failed to provide a reasonable accommodation such as establishing a “no scent” policy which prohibited or limited perfumes, colognes, hairspray, and other grooming products, asking the co-worker to stop wearing perfume, relocating one of the employees, or installing an air filter.  What’s the lesson?   Once again, discuss the issue with the complaining employee early and seriously and, as appropriate, accommodate.  In this case as in most, the accommodation was cheap (or free) as opposed to the lawsuit and settlement, which were not.  [McBride v. The City of Detroit]

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