It happens to Migraineurs again and again - we go to work and the people around us wear perfumes or strong scented deodorants or lotions or aftershaves. Their scents trigger Migraines, and we can't work. We have to go home, use our sick leave, maybe our pay is docked. Our work performance suffers, our budget suffers. If we complain to our employer, we are often told to put up with it. Or we are told that the employer cannot restrict the other worker's freedom to wear the scents, or we're told to be a team player and not make waves. This issue has been raised here on My Migraine Connection dozens of times. The great news is that there is a recent Federal case which makes it clear that employers can indeed, and in fact must, restrict employees from wearing perfume if it impacts your health and makes it impossible for you to work!
*** This sharepost is legal education, not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created. ***
Recently Miles posted this question in the Q & A section of the site:
"Need women at work to quit wearing perfume: Perfume is a horrible migraine trigger for me. The women in the office where I work wear it all the time -- lots of it. Talked to my boss. He said "live with it," but gets ticked when I get a migraine. Isn't there some kind of law about workplaces that should protect me?"
Yes, Miles, there is a law that protects you. It is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as amended by the Americans with Disabilities Amendments Act of 2008. The ADA prohibits employment discrimination against persons with disabilities, and what is significant about that is that it is considered discrimination if you are unable to perform your job because your employer failed to make reasonable accommodations to your disability which would have made it possible for you to work.
Does this apply to Migraineurs and perfume? Until recently I would have said the jury was out on that question, but two things happened in the past few years. The first was McBride v. City of Detroit. Susan McBride worked for the City of Detroit and she sued her employer under the ADA when the City refused to institute a no perfume policy as an accommodation to her extreme chemical sensitivity. The City moved to dismiss her claim, stating that Ms. McBride had not made out a case for disability under the ADA. A coworker's perfume caused Ms. McBride to become ill, miss work, and receive medical treatment. Her employer had refused to recognize her chemical sensitivity as a disability, or to provide accomodations. The US District Court denied the motion for summary judgment, holding that Ms. McBride had made out a sufficient case for a disability under the ADA, and that enforcing a no perfume policy could have been a reasonable accommodation. Although the McBride case did not deal with Migraine specifically, the facts are exactly parallel to a Migraine case, and the court ruling is such that the door is open to future lawsuits brought by Migraineurs.