In a lawsuit filed in Federal Court in 2008, City of Detroit employee Susan McBride complained she was “chemically sensitive” and suffered migraines, nausea and coughing caused by a co-worker’s perfume and room deodorizer. McBride also stated that it became difficult for her to breathe and do her job.
The city settled for $100,000. Detroit city employees in the three buildings where McBride works are being cautioned not to wear fragrant products, including colognes, aftershave, perfumes, and deodorants. Additionally, employees are no longer allowed to use candles and air fresheners.
The employee handbook and Americans with Disabilities Act training given to all city employees also will bear warnings.
Because this case did not go to trial, it sets no legal precedent. That is unlikely to deter others from filing similar lawsuits in the near future.
The lawsuit filed claims that McBride’s supervisor didn’t respond to her complaints. Had the supervisor taken action to resolve her complaints, such as communicating with the “scented” employee in search of a solution, all of this may have been avoided.
Let this be a warning to all employers. If/when an employee complains about any condition causing substantial interference with that employee’s ability to perform in the workplace, action must be taken promptly to resolve the complaint.
If you are a Southern California employer, we are here to assist in employment and business lawsuit problems. Call Richard Oppenheim directly at 818-461-8500. There is no charge for an initial consultation.