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Don’t Like How Your Co-Worker Smells? SUE!!


I’ve read my fair share of odd cases, but nothing ever brings a smile to my face faster than a frivolous lawsuit.

Apparently people really can sue for anything.  A Detroit planning department employee is suing the city because she claims the strong scents from her co-worker’s cosmetics are preventing her from working.  Further details regarding the facts of the case are limited at the moment, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the plaintiff is probably nuts.  The employee is alleging the fragrances in her office are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which, as I stated earlier, seems pretty nuts.

Something smells badLet’s just try to break this one down a little, shall we?  I’m assuming the employee is suing based on Title I of the Act since that’s the part that deals with employment.  The relevant part of this section would seem to be that workplace discrimination based on a person’s disability includes among other things “not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of disabled employees.”

In reading that section, two words jump out to me: reasonable and disabled.  These two terms are very general and open for some board interpretation that I’m sure any lawyer worth his salt could probably spin into a lawsuit.  However, in my opinion, not one that can or should be won.

You see, though “reasonable accommodations” could mean essentially anything that can be done to allow a disabled person to do their job.  The caveat is that it must actually be reasonable, in other words, not nuts.  The employee wants all similar scents to be banned from her place of employment.  Which, to make an analogy, would be like using a grenade to kill an ant.  Both are ridiculously overkill.  A more reasonable accommodation would be to just give her a separate office or even just prevent people who wear cosmetics with scents from approaching her (though even that one is pushing it).

Now even if the employee were to agree to this compromise, she’d still have a much bigger problem on her hands: proving she’s disabled.

Call me old-fashioned, unhip, uncool, or whatever it is kids use to describe people who aren’t with it these days, but I really don’t think a person is disabled just because they don’t like the smell of something.  Barring some incredibly rare allergy that renders this particular employee in some sort of pained state, there’s no way she’d be able to convince a judge (though maybe a jury) that she’s disabled.  The only thing she’d be able to prove is how overly sensitive and litigious people have become.  Instead of wasting the time of the court, she should just learn to deal with the little daily annoyances of life because last time I checked there are a lot of them.

Sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox now.  All I’m saying is that there are a lot of more important issues for the court to decide.  And it’s those types of cases that deserve our great justice system’s attention.


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