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Fragrance Sensitivities and Disability Definitions under the ADA

March 18, 2010

In yesterday's blog, our California Employment and Labor Lawyers discussed a recent lawsuit involving the issue of fragrance sensitivities in the workplace, and how fragrance sensitivities can be considered as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, (ADA).

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN), is provided by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy, to help employers comply with Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to find reasonable accommodations for disabled employees.

JAN states that fragrance sensitivity can mean that an employee has an actual allergy to a fragrance or a simple irritation to a fragrance, that manifests through absorption, breathing, or ingestion. The first allergic indicator of a reaction to a fragrance is often a skin rash after using a perfumed product, although other reactions can also include nausea, hives, asthma attacks or symptoms, coughing, wheezing, runny nose, itchy eyes, or difficulty breathing.

According to JAN, there is no list of medical conditions that comprise all disabilities under the ADA, rather a general definition of disability that is answered on a case-by-case basis, with consideration on how the employee is affected by his/her medical condition. In this way, some employees with fragrance sensitivities can be protected under the ADA and some will not.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a person can prove his/her disability in three different ways:

  • A person may have a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment or condition that limits them substantially in one or more major life activities.
  • A person can also meet the ADA's definition of disability by having a record or history of or being regarded as having an impairment that limits one or more major life activities substantially
  • A person may be disabled or impaired if he/she is regarded as having a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory (lasting or expected to last for over six months) and minor (even if he/she does not have this impairment).

The EEOC defines major life activities as functions such as caring for oneself, walking, breathing, seeing, hearing, learning, performing manual task, among others.

According to JAN when an employee requests reasonable accommodation for a disability, an employer may request further medical documentation that shows whether the employee has an impairment, and whether that disability limits one or more major life activities substantially. JAN also reports that an employer has the right to decide how far is reasonable when changing and implementing accommodations.

At Howard Law, PC, our experienced team of California Labor and Employment Attorneys aggressively protect your rights to a workplace free from violations of employment and labor laws. Call today, for a free consultation, so we can help you with your recovery.

U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy: Job Accommodation Network (JAN), Employees with Fragrance Sensitivity

U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy: Job Accommodation Network (JAN), Consultants' Corner: ADA

Section 902 Definition of the Term Disability: EEOC

EEOC: Disability Discrimination

Related Web Resources:

Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act