Managing Your Business

Overpowering fragrances at work

Common items, such as hairspray, perfume, cleaners and air fresheners, have odors that can be over-powering to fragrance-sensitive employees. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, it may be necessary for you to adapt policies and work areas to accommodate workers who react to strong scents. Try the following:

  • Establish a policy. Some companies have banned certain strong fragrances in the workplace, but it is unclear whether this is constitutional. Instead, try asking employees not to wear potent fragrances and send out frequent reminders.

  • Ventilate. Regularly clean and service your office's ventilation system, and avoid using deodorizing fragrances in the system. It also may be necessary to consult an air-purification expert about your office's needs.

  • Accommodate. If you have an employee who is fragrance-sensitive, assign him office space away from ventilation ducts. An office that contains a window, air conditioner or air-purification unit is best. In severe cases, you may consider letting the employee work from home.

Source: Adapted from the Job Accommodation Network Web site, as cited in The Manager's Intelligence Report, September 2001 issue.

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