Does Your Employer Have a Duty to Accommodate a Fragrance Sensitivity under Federal Law?


Posted by: Chris

People have always thought it was a little strange how much you enjoy your job. You have been here for over five years, and somehow the work is still enjoyable. Data entry is not the most exciting activity you have ever done, but you enjoy learning new people’s names, and that seems to keep it enjoyable for you.

You look around your desk—tour the same spot, the same people. You begin to wonder why the headaches started when nothing has changed. Some days, the pain becomes unbearable, and you have to leave early. The nausea keeps you from being able to stay at your desk for long, and the blurred vision from the pain makes it impossible to keep working.

You worry about losing your job. You spoke with your supervisor, and since you have been a model employee for so long, she doesn’t think it will be a problem. Still, the doctor you went to see yesterday thinks it might be fragrance sensitivity, so you are hopeful that your employer can help you find a solution and make the pain stop. You feel fortunate that your employer seems so accommodating, offering to help track down any changes that have occurred in the office in the past month since your headaches began.

What you do not realize is that your employer is not just being kind. Instead, it is attempting to meet the requirements of federal law and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA does not contain a specific list of disabilities. Instead, it defines what a disability is. This means that the determination of a fragrance sensitivity is fact- and situation-specific. Impairments can rise to the level where they meet the definition of "disability," triggering the protections afforded by the ADA.

Employers that are covered by the ADA have a duty to attempt to accommodate a disabled individual, including those who suffer from fragrance sensitivities. If an employer fails to do this, it could potentially run afoul of the ADA.

Accommodating a fragrance sensitivity usually means connecting with the individual who has the sensitivity and attempting to make a reasonable accommodation it. Reasonable accommodations might include things such as changing cleaning products, improving air filtration, providing a private work space, allowing the use of a restricted bathroom. Even still, seldom would an employer be required to provide a scent-free workplace simply because of the onerous burden of making that happen.

If you or someone you know has a fragrance sensitivity, get in touch with an experienced Oklahoma discrimination attorney to help you understand your rights. If you suffer from fragrance sensitivity and want to learn about your rights, call (918) 582-2500 today for a free consultation.