New ADA Guidelines for Fragrance Sensitivity

Employers need to be aware that allergies to fragrance or multiple chemical sensitivities can be disabilities under ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act.


This was amply illustrated in a recent post on McBride v. the City of Detroit that ruled senior city manager Susan McBride’s chemical sensitivity was a disability under ADA because it interfered with the major life activity of breathing.


One of the major problems in that case was that the HR department for the City of Detroit simply refused McBride’s request, without any Continue reading

Fragrance Sensitivity a Disability Under ADA

A recent court ruling means that some employers will have to ban perfume, cologne and other scents in the workplace.


In McBride v. City of Detroit, senior city planner Susan McBride was awarded $100,000. In addition, the City of Detroit (the employer) agreed to revise its ADA handbook and training, and to post notices about the fragrance-free policy.


McBride, who suffers from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, complained when a new coworker wore heavy perfume and used a room deodorizer. The coworker agreed to unplug the room deodorizer at McBride’s request, but refused to stop wearing perfume.  McBride appealed to her supervisor and the HR department. The city failed to recognize this as an ADA issue and informed McBride that her coworker had a constitutional right to wear perfume to work. They also informed McBride that since she had the allergy, it was her problem, not the employer’s. McBride took time off under FMLA but that failed to resolve the problem when she returned to work.


However, the federal courts disagreed. The court ruled that an allergy to scents can be a disability under ADAAA, the most recent amendment to ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under this law enforced by the EEOC, when an employee has severe symptoms as a result of Continue reading