The people we work with are so many things to us. Heck, even our question of the week invites you to ask us your questions about co-workers! And just on this blog alone we’ve learned the following about colleagues:
- They keep us from feeling alienated.
- They gamble with us.
- They make for good dates (sometimes).
- They are odd birds.
They are also – how should we put it? – aromatic. While we appreciate that these colleagues want to add a pleasant fragrance to the air, we don’t like that they do it with several ounces of cologne and perfume each day. They are proof that too much of a good thing is possible. On a recent “Early Show,” Bianca Solorzano covered a story about Susan McBride, a Detroit city employee who claimed a co-worker’s perfume and room deodorizer caused her to suffer from migraines and nausea. She sued the city, citing her inability to work properly under the pungent conditions.
McBride won a $100,000 settlement. Detroit city employees in the three buildings where McBride works are now being warned not to wear scented products, including colognes, aftershave, perfumes and deodorants, or even use candles and air fresheners.
Last week, a co-worker and I were in a cab where the driver’s cologne was stifling. A few minutes later, we were in an elevator and another passenger’s cologne was causing our eyes to tear. We couldn’t wait to get into the fresh air of the outdoors, where good, old-fashioned smog filled our lungs. Although I didn’t feel quite as traumatized by the incident as McBride did, I can understand her point. If I were forced to drown in someone’s perfume eight hours a day for five days a week, with no end in sight, I can imagine my productivity would suffer. And, as attorney Joelle Sharman points out:
A person doesn’t necessarily have a right to wear perfume, but the person does have a right to be able to breathe in the workplace. So if an employee comes into work and says to his or her boss, ‘I can’t breathe, this perfume is triggering a condition that is affecting my ability to breathe in the workplace,’ and reports to his or her boss, the boss has to reasonably accommodate that person.
You can read the whole story and see the accompanying video on the “Early Show” website to get the whole story.
Although I’ve never worked with such a colleague on a regular basis, I’ve had more friends, family members and readers mention the issue of overbearing fragrances than perhaps any other issue. (Much to my surprise I might add – maybe they’re giving me a hint.) Apparently this issue is much bigger than I realized.
So I ask you, is this an issue you’ve dealt with? How did you handle it? Do you side with McBride or with the room-deodorizing co-worker? Let us know.