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Is smell sensitivity covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

2017-07-20

If the smell sensitivity can be linked to an allergic reaction or sensitivity to a covered disability then it may be covered. 

On June 12, 2017 EEOC filed suit against Advanced Home Care, Inc. for refusing an employee’s request to telecommute due to their sensitivity to workplace smells.

According to the court documents, the employee asked her supervisor on three separate occasions if she could work from home to avoid exposure to the fragrances and odors in the workplace.  The employee claimed that the smells aggravated her asthma and COPD.  EEOC alleges that the company failed to conduct an individualized assessment of the requested accommodation and instead ignored her requests.

It is wise to never ignore a request for an accommodation and to conduct an interactive process to determine if: (1) it is covered under the ADA and (2) if it is reasonable. Failing to provide the accommodation may be the end result; however, it would never be a defensible decision if it is not accompanied by this analysis.  

The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of Workplace Dynamics LLC and is not being represented as being all-inclusive or complete. It has been abridged from legislation, administrative ruling, agency directives, and other information provided by the government. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel.