Detroit Settles Perfume Allergy Case for $100,000

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Susan McBride, a civil servant in Detroit, won a $100,000 settlement from the city after officials failed to accommodate her allergy to perfume. McBride complained to superiors about a coworker’s perfume, claiming the smell made it difficult for her to breath. When managers did nothing to address the situation, McBride sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act and won.

In addition to paying the hundred grand, the city, as part of the settlement, will post signs asking employees to refrain from wearing “scented products, including but not limited to colognes, after-shave lotions, perfumes, deodorants, body/face lotions, hair sprays or similar products.”
In 2005, Detroit was the site for a private lawsuit between a DJ, Erin Weber, and a local radio station involving perfume. As in the McBride case, Weber complained about a coworker’s perfume, got no relief, then sued and won—a $10.6 million verdict. The award was later knocked down to $814,000.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Susan McBride v. City of Detroit (U.S. District Court, Eastern Michigan) (pdf)
See all 11 comments


Suffering in Baton Rouge 1 year ago
The comments in this article are those that I can deeply sympathize with but they also make me sad for the same reason. I haven't got a shadow of a doubt that my MCS is why I was laid off at my last job. The day prior to my termination, I requested to work in a different area of the office, as a coworker (who I'd pleaded with before to stop wearing fragrances because they gave me terrible headaches) was wearing one that gave me a migraine and fever blisters on my lips. My supervisor responded with callous disregard, complaining that I wanted special treatment and I should just suck it up. The next day, just before 5pm, I was told they had to lay me off. They swore, of course, that it was a legit reduction in force and had nothing to do with my MCS. Only, they gave out bonuses the week before, and hired on a new employee the very same day they laid me off. My sources tell me that no one else was laid off, either. Just me. I was out of work from mid-December 2014 until early May 2015 and nearly ended up homeless because I could not afford to pay rent. (Louisiana's max per week Unemployment benefits are $222 - after deductions.) Even with Food Stamps I was barely surviving. I finally found a friend who let me live rent-free until I could find work, and even then I had to accept financial help from my parents and my boyfriend to make ends meet. It saddens me to see that my case is not uncommon but I do have a small glimmer of hope in knowing that there have been others to sue and win. Perfume bans should be mandatory in the workplace, plain and simple and it shouldn't have to take a lawsuit to bring it about.
Kim 1 year ago
If I went into a bar, it would not be a surprise to come out smelling like booze and cigarettes. However, when going to work, I should not have to smell like a perfume shop and reek of other people's perfume scents. It is a life-threatening condition (causes blood pressure spikes, breathing, skin rashes, headaches)and despite the doctor's notes to my employers NOT to expose me to perfumes and chemicals, the coworkers IGNORE that it is a form of assault to continue smelling that garbage around me. Like Georgie, they claim it is their personal right. WHY should I have to absorb THEIR SMELL? One worker sprayed it right in front of me claiming that "nobody gonna tell her she cannot wear it". I am considering a lawsuit.
Margie 4 years ago
i have had many of the same issues. i have made known to hr, and this is an hr company. it is especially bad in the morning when the scents have been freshly applied. my head spins, my eyes are on fire, and i have difficulty breathing. my complaints fall on deaf ears. riding up the elevator in the morning, is the beginning of the daily assault. once i arrive at the office door, i have to pass by a couple of cubicles that are like going through the cosmetic counter at macy's. it all falls of deaf ears. i also suffer with reaction to chemicals. there is so much here. it is the culture of the company. coworkers cannot possibly understand. there are no outward signs so they think i am just a complainer. most days i run a small fan just to try to blow the constant barage of perfumes and lotions away from me.i even keep a mask at my desk to no avail. i too wish they could walk in my shoes. no it is not a matter of personal preference due to the scent. it is the reaction i experience. it makes it difficult to work in an environment when the perfume/lotions etc make your head spin so much that you feel as if you will pass out.
letmebreathe 6 years ago
I can sympathize with you as I have been dealing with the same problem since November 2008. Friday I was told that I was being laid off and should go home for 30 days with pay and try to find another position within the company. Do you really think they will allow me to work in another department? It is time to take it up a knotch. It's so sad that we have to be mocked, humiliated and harrassed in order to breathe so that someone else can have the right to leave their stench behind. The elevator can be empty when you get in but the smell of someone's cologne is so strong it chokes me to tears. They don't get it that it causes us migraines and closes off our breathing and much more. If only they could walk an hour in my shoes.
Georgie 6 years ago
I have been told by co-workers and superiors that it is their personal right to wear perfume and that overrides my right to breathe. I am glad this case was successful.
ChemicallySensitive 6 years ago
I, too, am chemically sensitive. People think it's a joke and lie about it. I had a woman spray my cubicle. What people don't understand that it's not the smell, but the chemicals that can kill us. What I've come to hope when people are so rude and choose to assault me is that their kids get this, see how funny it is.
banperfumes 7 years ago
I work in confined office with two other office workers. One sprays her toxic perfume on everyday in the office upon arriving. I had a anaphalatic reaction on March 10,right in front of her and she totally still denies that its her perfume. Now since I reported the issue to HR (I had to leave work twice in two weeks for E.R. medical care), she will purposely wear the perfume and now she has the other lady wearing hers in overdrive. I moved myself from their office and sit somewhere else. My workplace is not really doing anything about it. Lawsuits like this will make them stand up and listen, I hope. If nothing gets done and I have to continue to have hives, difficulty breathing and go to the ER one more time, I will be talking to the EEOC.
Fred Sampson 7 years ago
About time! Those perumes with the cheap musky "raid" smell are the worst and most annoying. Why do some people pour that crap on? It's usually 1 person in the office who does that daily. Hopefully the perume companies get sued next and stop putting raid in their cheap product, and use better products instead of cutting costs in order to make others sick.
E.Brown 7 years ago
I am so happy that she won. For years folks have thought I was going crazy when I told them that I cant take perfume. My prior job would not listen. I have had this problem for several years with perfume. I had complained and was told that the job could not control what someone wore. I had to quit in order to get relief. I get headaches and my chest tightens up because of certain scents and people should be mindful that they should wear perfume for themselves and not for others to smell especially cheap perfume with a high alcohol content.
Hate Body Smells 7 years ago
What about bath soap and shampoo? I guess it would be alright to have a yearly bath, but what about body odor in the meantime? Is that alright or should you have to stay away from work in case you offend? As a city Detroit is not the greatest. Now they have to prove it really stinks! The jokes will keep on coming.

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