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No Perfume for Detroit City Workers

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 16, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In a bizarre lawsuit against the city of Detroit, the city found itself in hot water for allowing their employees to wear perfume.

Susan McBride, a city planner, received $100,000 to settle a lawsuit, due to breathing sensitivity to chemical products. The lawsuit was filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act and complained about a co-worker's perfume. 

Under the ADA, a person who is considered "disabled" is someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits "major life activity." The law prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of disability.

The city's reaction and initial response to McBride was that there was no medical diagnosis to sustain her supposed disability. Interestingly, however, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is a medical condition. According to WebMD, the condition entails a sensitivity to chemical that is heightened. And symptoms can be severe, including nausea and even diarrhea.

Ironically, other symptoms mentioned by WebMD include irritability and mood changes.    

The city will now begin to place placards in the buildings. In addition to the placards, the city will also amend their employee handbook, to provide for the "no perfume" rule. 

Preliminary reports mention that all fragrances will be banned, including scented candles, lotions and spray or solid air fresheners. In addition, perfume samples from magazines will not be allowed, either. 

These types of personnel rules dealing with personal hygiene are not common, according to one Detroit attorney.   

In light of this ruling, it will be interesting to see how many employers begin treading on the domain of employee hygiene. This lawsuit could open the door to several more across the country.   

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