Thursday, November 29, 2012

Fragrance in the Workplace: New Developments

"New ADA regulations make it easier for employees to file disability claims for allergies and other scent-related conditions. While there are not many cases, some case law already exists that is shaping how employers must react to remain compliant. In a recent BLR webinar, Marc Jacuzzi outlined for us some of the cases that have shaped how employers should react when an employee has fragrance sensitivity."

Thus begins an article on fragrance sensitivity now falling under disabilities guidelines. Read it here.


  1. I wonder if a physician will be required to sign off on each disability case (to ensure that there is a legitimate medical need for accommodation)? I have witnessed people wheezing and needing asthma medication after exposure to fragrances, but could these regulations be abused by those who are merely fragrance-averse? Ah, perhaps in decades to come, fragrance will be something to be indulged in after-hours, or only in limited areas, like alcohol and tobacco!!

  2. Miss Heliotrope00:47

    I would hope that, if it is going to be treated as a disability, they do need a medical cert - it is open to abuse otherwise.

    I still find it odd that while the complainants list a number of items setting off their problems, it is the perfume that gets it - why not try using non-irritant cleaners in the office - even eco ones that are that way, better all around. & more fresh air & so on (or are people allergic to that, too?)

    & slightly off-topic: who on earth sets up plug-in room scents & pot pourri at work?

  3. Anonymous08:40

    If I can generalize from my own experience, a reasonable accomodation IMO would be to send the employee to a pulmonologist or allergy specialist to narrow down just what their problem is. It's possible for the docs to screen for faking also - pulmonary function tests, etc.

    I have asthma and allergic rhinitis, and have ended up in the emergency room from my *own* perfumes as well as from scents in public. As far as my own perfume, my own fault. Now I either wear natural fragranges, or very carefully sample commercial perfumes - with my Epipen and asthma inhaler at hand and 911 on speed dial. My doctors have told me to avoid PAHs (which you probably understand better than I do) - which pretty much covers all the synthetic musks, fruity berry junk, etc. I love this site because it helps me avoid buying fragrances that I know I can't use. The rest of the world is beyond my control.

    I have also had to have flooring removed when I remodelled a room in my house and redone with solventless adhesives. At my own expense. As far as other people, I am not sensitive to everything but have been told by my doctor to have my Epipen, asthma rescue inhaler, & my phone with me always. I've never sued anybody, don't plan to, but do wish that people would try to be open minded about the fact that it is possible for people to die from an asthma attack, or develop COPD from chronic exposure and die slowly. These chemicals aren't merely unpleasant to people like me; some can kill.

    I don't want to live in a bubble, have allergy proofed my house, and have found some fantastic natural perfumers here on this blog so I can still enjoy fragrance. As far as workplaces: better ventilation, windows that open, and non allergenic cleaning products might be a better place to start than a blanket ban on perfume - although I would like to see a return to natural fragrances. Yes I know that is an idle dream because they are so expensive or not politically correct. But I dislike seeing on blogs where people who have their airways constrict are hated along with people who simply don't "like" scent. I plead for tolerance & understanding.

    Anyway, sorry to ramble - am still saving for some perfumes I love but can't get in the department stores ;)


  4. A,

    I would presume that since these are no falling under disabilities there should be some medical backing behind it, since it might also require medication (and coverage by insurance companies or public health funds). Therefore I bet there would be some formal procedure to go through, it wouldn't make sense otherwise. In a way, it's probably what should be done to avoid the "faking" done by a few people who just dislike perfume altogether.

  5. C,

    see, this is exactly why I think many people have developed allergies in the first place: overexposure, much more than would be normal in an average lifetime. Who puts plug-ins and pot pouri in the office indeed!!

    As I stated to Amy above, when dealing with disabilities there's a rigorous medical procedure to go through, paperwork too I assume (judging by our own bureaucratic public health system) so it would bypass the fakers and focus on those who really need it. That would cut down some of the faking, which is a good thing in my books.
    I think so, at least!

  6. Isabella,

    thanks for offering the perspective of someone who DOES have a problem with it and isn't using a fake excuse. I get what you're saying and I sincerely sympathize with you.

    Like mentioned many times on this site, I think that the general overexposure to chemical-induced "add on" smells in our environment in the western world (everything being extra scented on top of having its own smell) has created a hybrid case of allergies which can't be tackled that easily and can prove dangerous indeed. I too have bouts of allergic rhinitis (not too serious), usually trigged by hay fever season and a couple of ingredients I have pinpointed. I try to avoid as much as possible. Asthma of course is much, much more serious and needs to be viewed with consideration. Trial and error might not be the best course. For those afflicted I can only offer the hope that one day everything used on commercial products (and that would include scents and components used in public spaces) would be minutely broken down and communicated to the public so that people can make informed choices. And avoid the triggers to their specific case. One can hope...

    Thanks for your comment and for your readership, much appreciated.


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