Perfume Complaint

We have an employee who says they have allergies to another employees perfume. We have had some issues with this employee in the past and are not so sure that the perfume is an issue. None of the other employees say they have problems with the perfume this particular employee is wearing. I know we need to provide good working conditions but how far do we need to go to accomodate this complaint. The employee she is complaining about is a great employee and we sure don't want to lose her over this!


  • 8 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • If you do a search on the forum for "smell at work" or "perfume," I believe there are several past threads similar to this one.

    If those don't answer your question, I'll try to think of something else!
  • If they claim allergies you need to dig deeper. Are you covered under ADA? If so, I would start by asking the employee for documenation proving they are actually allergic to perfume. If they are claiming it is a specific perfume I would be skeptical and get further advice from an expert.

    If you think they just have a problem with that particular employee, then you REALLY need to dig deeper.

    Good luck!
  • Unfortunately, I've seen this before myself. We've had a couple of people who have claimed "allergies" when they just didn't like the smell of somebody's perfume, or had a personal beef with the other employee.

    One employee started complaining about the scent of the hair product that her supervisor used, saying that it was causing her allergies to act up, but we figured out she was doing it to deflect from the fact that her performance had fallen off recently. ("If she wouldn't use that oil in her hair then my allergies wouldn't flare up and I'd be able to pay closer attention to what I was doing and not make mistakes".)

    I agree with Nae, I would find out if there are documented allergies that might fall under the ADA, and take it from there.
  • Over the years, I've seen lots of employees squabble and they do pick at others in ways that they think will get them off the hook for their own deficiencies, whatever those may be. But sometimes, an employee really can be allergic to another employee's scent.

    I know this because I've come across it with employees before and because I'm one of the unfortunates who can't wear scent because of allergies. Some scents make me sneeze and some make me cough. Some make my throat close up and I find it difficult to breathe. But mostly, they just give me a roaring headache that makes me want to crawl in a hole and close the lid.

    To be fair, though, it's often not the scent itself but some chemical that is used in the making of many perfumes, deodorants, hair conditioners, hand lotions, etc. So, for me, it's allergy-free products all the way.

    Just my two cents.


    PS: Don't get me started about lip balm or I'll tell you about the time my pucker-upper became so swollen I had to wear a hood to keep from scaring little children.

    PPS: We have a webinar scheduled for April --[B][COLOR=black][FONT=&quot][/FONT][/COLOR][/B][B][COLOR=black][FONT=&quot] [/FONT][/COLOR][/B]Workplace Scent Allergies and the ADA: Tips for Sniffing Out Your Compliance Obligations

    You can find more information about it here:
  • Thanks for the tip Sharon. I, like you, have severe allergies, plus I have the added fun of all sorts of asthma, including "environmental asthma." Just this morning I came in to work and said good morning to three coworkers. They were wearing so much scent it kicked up my asthma and I sat in my office coughing and choking for a good 15 minutes after I walked past them. I hate being that person. I also cannot help it.

    Just wanted to note that I don't think that there is a test (at least not one readily available) to determine allergies to certain scents. In fact, when I got tested for allergies, there were no tests for chemicals or scents. just natural allergens like animals and pollen, and you can get a blood test for food allergies. I think at best a doctor can write your employee a general note documenting that she is chemically sensitive.

    As a side note, my best friend works in a doctor's office and has mentioned to her supervisor and coworkers that she has severe chemical sensitivity. She is not rude and did this in a nice way. She even brought a doctor's note. (Again, there was no test for this. The doctor just listened to her symptoms and issued an inhaler.) Her coworkers then wear EXTRA scents to punish her because that's the kind of jerks they are. They make a point to stand really close to her as well. She has an unresponsive supervisor and the doctors are oblivious. She's miserable.
  • I would first look at your policies. Do you have a "Clean Air" policy in place already? Clean Air policies are great ways to address these types of issues without singling out specific employees and treat everyone equally. Clean Air policies I've dealt with before also include body odor. My favorite policy I've seen, addresses it as a concern for health for all.

    "About 15% of the general population experience adverse health effects from perfumes and solvents, and become ill from even small amounts of fragrance products. Reported adverse health effects from fragrance products range from migraine headaches and asthma attacks to cardiac and neurological symptoms. This is not a preference issue. It may be a serious health issue for a significant number of people."
  • I was recently tested for allergies and advised of a strong allergy to Oris root which is the basis for all scents in perfume, etc. I have been advised to stay away from strong scents & especially plug in air fresheners (which circulate thru the a/c vents), scented detergents & fabric softeners & strong scented perfumes/body lotions which I knew before. Anyone coming close to me for even a brief period of time with strong perfumes
    triggers my sinuses. Major headache.
  • Bummer Betty Boop! That's interesting to know about the oris root though! Tmperry, I like that quote as a basis for policy.

    Oh, and those darned plug-in airfresheners are the WORST!!
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