People with a fragrance sensitivity can have a variety of reactions from sneezing/runny nose to severe migraines and asthma attacks. Sensitivity can be triggered by anything from perfumes/colognes, room fragrances, cleaning materials or cosmetics. Although fragrance sensitivity in and of itself might not be covered under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) some conditions may be triggered by fragrance sensitivity (such as asthma or migraines) or an employee’s fragrance sensitivity may disrupt one or more life activities. Therefore, employers are cautioned to handle fragrance sensitivities appropriately to ensure compliance with ADA, and it just makes sense if there is an easy fix to have your employees comfortable.
There are numerous options for helping an employee with a fragrance sensitivity, all of which, need to begin with having an open conversation with the employee suffering from the sensitivity issue.
Find out if the employee is aware of specific triggers (a specific perfume or room deodorizer) and work to eliminate the trigger. Some employers find that having conversations with staff or emailing a memo asking employees to refrain from using specific products is the best resolution for the issue.
Provide a well-ventilated work space for the employee. This may mean moving an employee to an office with more air-flow available or a private office where the employee can close the door if needed.
Allow for “fresh air” breaks
Consider a “fragrance-free policy” in the office. Sample language may include:
“This is a fragrance-free office. Please help us to accommodate our co-workers and clients who are chemically sensitive to fragrances and other scented products. Thank you for not wearing perfume, aftershave, scented hand lotion, and or similar products.”
Of course, there may be cases when you cannot accommodate a fragrance-free workplace, such as chemicals used in the course of an employee’s daily work, etc. CAI suggests handling each request regarding a fragrance sensitivity on a case by case accommodation.
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Emily’s primary area of focus is providing expert advice and support in the areas of employee relations and federal and state employment law compliance as a member of the Advice & Resolution team for CAI. Additionally, Emily advises business and HR leaders in operational and strategic human resources areas such as talent and performance management, employee engagement, and M&A’s. Emily has 10+ years of broad-based HR business partnering experience centering around employee relations, compliance & regulatory employment issues, strategic and tactical human resources, and strong process improvement skills