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    Fragrance Sensitivity.....Workplace issues....
    wmrx1505 posted:
    I suffer from asthma and allergies both of which are reactive to fragrances. Co-workers perfumes/cologne caused tightness in my chest, congestion that resulted in loss of voice, eye irritation, headache and skin reactions . My employer required that I file for a medical accommodation . I requested that co-workers be ask not to wear heavy fragrances when I was scheduled. They rejected my request and offered an alternate accommodation of wearing a I Can Breathe honeycomb mask with carbon filter. My issue is that I work in a public setting as an RPh, have to counsel customer s and spend a lot of the time on the phone. The mask is a distraction to customers and makes it difficult to communicate with hearing impaired patients and is a hindrance when talking on the phone. Apparently my employer felt that asking co-workers to wear less perfume/cologne would be an infringement of their rights. What about my rights? Has anyone else had this type of issue with an employer?
    twitchylungs24 responded:
    My HR manager said the same thing - wear a mask. Like you, I can't talk on the phone with a mask on, and my HIPAA right to medical privacy is destroyed if I have to wear a mask. My asthma is triggered by fragrances, too, and strong odors. Last week Friday I went home 2 hrs early because a receptionist candidate was being interviewed a few feet from my desk. The woman's perfume was so strong I took some work downstairs. I came back and it was worse, so I talked with my supervisor and went home. He was great about it!

    My mom (she has asthma, too) talked to an attorney recently and he said that even if a state has a law that people can wear fragrances in the workplace, it's not a federal law, so it won't stand up in court. He said employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation to employees, and the "right to work" far outweighs the so called 'right' to wear fragrances. There are more and more asthmatics in the US every year, and we're starting to stand up for ourselves - and the courts are listening. He said that we don't have to prove that we're disabled by asthma, only that we have it. Another thing he said was to use your Personal Days, if you have them, when you experience an asthma attack at work from fragrances. Hit them where it hurts by forcing them to pay you when it's too dangerous for you to stay. That also provides evidence that you are affected by the fragrances to the point that you have to leave work.

    I hope that helps. Take care and be safe.
    coughy16 responded:
    Here is what worked for me. First I had to keep in mind that my coworkers wouldn't automatically realize that their fragrances caused a problem for me. So I went to each of the people who's fragrance caused me problems, individually, apologized for troubling them, told them that I was hyper sensitive to fragrances, that it wasn't them or their fragrances, it was me, explained what happens when I am around them and then said something like: I am really sorry to ask you this, I know that it is a lot, but is there any possibility that you could not use that fragrance when you come to work? I found that everyone agreed to help me. Not everyone is reasonable, but if you approach them in the right way, you may find many willing to work with you on this.
    amcate responded:
    I work in the medical field. Fragrances don't bother me, but infection does. I tried wearing a mask as a reasonable accommodation. However, coworkers ridiculed me, and as can be expected many patients felt uneasy. I tried to educate people on asthma and infections, but no one cared. As I work with geriatrics, many are hard of hearing, and you are correct, the mask gets in the way of communication. Writing can help that, but it takes more time. Long story, but there were other things the employer did that likely violated the law.

    The American with Disabilities Act is the relevant legislation. However, I choose not to bring a complaint as I feared it would follow me and would make other employers reluctant to hire me as that happened to a nurse I know who brought suit and won, but then couldn't find another job in her state. I'm not saying don't use, as I know others who did and it worked out well for them.

    As for me, I choose not to wear the mask and then just take off from work without pay if I get an infection and the asthma goes south. I work per diem because of this situation. It may not be fair, but it's the best I could come up with given the reality of how employers often operate and the general ignorance in certain areas of the medical field about asthma.

    You may want to look up the ADA and see if you can specify which accommodation you will take.

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