Detroit City Bans Smelly Perfumes

[deleted account] ( 8 moms have responded )

Detroit officials are telling workers in city offices to leave smelly perfumes, deodorants, and other strongly scented toiletries and items at home.The signs are going up in response to a federal lawsuit, which also awarded $100,000 to Susan McBride, who sued the city under the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming a coworker's perfume made it difficult for her to breathe and do her job.

The city fought the 2008 suit, citing a lack of a medical diagnosis and arguing that McBride is not disabled. But the move this week to warn workers to refrain from using strong-smelling products is a clear sign the city is following through with some of the measures the judge ordered last month. The signs will warn workers to avoid "wearing scented products, including ... colognes, aftershave lotions, perfumes, deodorants, body/face lotions ... (and) the use of scented candles, perfume samples from magazines, spray or solid air fresheners."

At some point in our working lives, we all have sat next to someone with a heavy hand on the perfume bottle, hairspray can, or in their choice of deodorants. Dealing with an over-scented coworker can be difficult, but when you've got a medical condition, like asthma, it can literally and negatively affect the air you breath. McBride's attorney, Ann Curry Thompson, says it's not uncommon for stories about a suit like this to be the subject of lots of jokes, but that's part of educating people about the fact that what is merely annoying to one worker can be debilitating to another.

She likens this education effort to the early days of the campaign to prohibit smoking in workplaces. It's not fair to put the chemical-smells issue completely into the hands of employees to deal one-on-one with each other, the Detroit-based workplace attorney told Yahoo! Shine. "It pits employees against one another," she said. "When there is no policy, no alternative than to go directly to the offending employee and ask the employee to stop, it tends to cause conflict."

So while this case does not mean every employee can slap up a sign telling coworkers to use smelly products on their own time, it does provide a precedent for employees to show their own employers about the need for a policy related to chemical smells.

Right now, employees have to individually make the case that they are physically impaired because of another coworkers' product-use, said Robin Bond, a workplace attorney. But the success of this case, brought using the Americans with Disabilities Act, could lead to more cases like it as scent-plagued workers find they may have an effective tool to force employers to deal with differences over overly fragrant coworkers.

Thompson says her research revealed that many employers do have policies regarding chemical scents. But, clearly, many more do not. "I'm persuaded that over time people will understand that scents in the workplace are chemicals just like ammonia or anything else that some people are sensitive to in varying degrees," Thompson said.

What do you ladies think? I think this is WONDERFUL!!! I am extremely alergic to many perfumes and I HATED when I was working and had to sit next to my co-workers who I was, essentially, allergic to because of their perfumes. I had to discreatly ask my boss to approach those people and request they stop wearing those perfumes, but he could not legally demand they do so. It was really difficult for me and was one of the main reasons I quit that job.

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Sara - posted on 03/16/2010




I have asthma and I do have trouble tolerating strong perfumes and smells. I think if you work in an area where you serve the public or you work in close quarters with another person, it's the polite thing to do not to bathe yourself in perfume before you come into work. This sounds good to me!

Krista - posted on 03/16/2010




A lot of office buildings here in Nova Scotia have a scent-free policy. For the most part, I just use common sense. Yes, I still wear scented pit-stick, but it's just a light baby powder scent, usually. I don't wear perfume to work, and don't wear scented lotions. For everything else, like deodorant, hair products, etc, I just try to find something that doesn't have an overwhelming perfume to it.

I think it's smart to ban strong perfumes in the workplace. Some people just have no common sense and would wear really strong evening perfume to work. And then you have the guys who basically douse themselves with Axe every 5 minutes because the ads have convinced them that if they do, they'll be surrounded by panting women.

Carolee - posted on 03/16/2010




I think only "light" scents should be used, but all scents shouldn't be banned. That has the immense potential for a very smelly workplace. Most deoderants are scented, so they are basically saying that each person who works in that building must re-supply their entire deoderant and perfume/aftershave selection or not wear any at all. And, if they do not have a list of the appropriate smells, where you can buy them, and how many "spritzes" one person can put on, there really isn't any way they can truly control the "problem". I think it should still be on a person to person, not a company wide, basis.

Amie - posted on 03/15/2010




It really is a good idea. Some people can not handle scents. My mom has asthma, I've watched her be admitted to the hospital multiple times because of people's over use of scents. No matter where that scent comes from.
It's not that she can't handle the scents in moderation, what she can't handle is people smelling like they bathed in it. There's always a few. I'm not asthmatic and I cough and gag when I walk by people who use too much, whether its male or female. It's a good step to take.

Jocelyn - posted on 03/15/2010




I'm torn, I think banning ALL scented products is a bit much, but I really like the idea that horrible smelling perfume is banned lol. I hate it when some woman walks by and you can still smell her after she's been gone for 10 minutes.

Rosie - posted on 03/15/2010




i find it kindof unreasonable to ask everybody to not wear perfume or wear unscented deodorant. there is only like one type of unscented deodorant, and i personally would like to smell someones perfume than their stinky ass BO. i do understand that it bothers some people so maybe there can be a compromise of some sort.

[deleted account]

I think it's great idea too. My college dorm mate and I got in a knock out fight over this at one point. Her perfume made my eyes water, sneeze uncontrollably and made me all around miserable. I asked (probably demanded) that she wait until she left the room to apply it, but she thought it was ridiculous that I would ask her to do that and that I was over-exaggerating my problem. Oddly enough we are very close to this day.

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