Smellephant in the room

A recent court case in Detroit ruled that employers have a duty to reasonably accommodate scent-related requests in the workplace, if the odor issue causes difficulty in performing their duties.

You may have noticed the term “reasonably accommodate” in the above paragraph. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – which was amended in 2009 – now includes sensitivity to odors as a disability.

Odor-sensitivity can be considered a disability under the ADA if it causes one of the following:

  • difficulty breathing
  • headaches
  • watery eyes
  • coughing and sneezing.

If your employees come to you with a scent complaint, work with them to find a solution and avoid potential litigation.  To learn more about workplace odor issues, read “Employers Should Consider Containing Workplace Odors” by our partners at Fisher & Phillips LLP.


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