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City of Portland sued over workplace fragrances

Thursday 16 May 2013


From US new outlet The Oregonian:


(Photo: Getty Images)

Portland city employee says co-workers' perfumes, lotions, are noxious -- wants fragrance-free workspace

By Bryan Denson, The Oregonian
on May 13, 2013 at 4:51 PM, updated May 13, 2013 at 5:12 PM
Email the author | Follow on Twitter

The city of Portland was served with a lawsuit on Monday that accuses Bureau of Maintenance managers of failing to accommodate an employee who suffers from a condition called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.

Julee Reynolds says co-workers wearing scented products such as perfume and hand lotion have triggered the disorder, causing her respiratory distress, dizziness, headaches, nausea, and anaphylaxis, a potentially deadly allergic reaction.

Reynolds' suit, filed Friday in Portland's U.S. District Court, accuses the city of common-law negligence and violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

"We were just served today," said Kim Sneath, office administrator for the city attorney. "We don't comment on pending litigation."

Reynolds claims that a June 2011 workplace exposure caused her to be hospitalized and that her doctor allowed her to return to full duty for the city but with "no exposure to fragrances."

She met with Richard Herrington, the city's safety officer, to discuss ways to limit her exposure to potential allergens.

"Ms. Reynolds suggested rearranging the workspace, placing fragrance-free signs in her workspace, educating her co-workers, and enforcing the city's fragrance-free policy," the lawsuit alleges. "However, the city refused to implement these suggestions."

Early last year, the lawsuit alleges, Reynolds formally requested that the city make those accommodations -- along with installing a fan to push the offending scents away from her. She suggested that her co-workers and other employees undergo awareness training "to heighten their appreciation of the impact of fragrance-bearing products and how to avoid triggering Ms. Reynolds' condition."

The city did nothing to address Reynolds' concerns, the lawsuit alleges.

On March 19, 2012, a lawyer for Disability Rights Oregon sent a letter to the city on behalf of Reynolds. In it, the nonprofit asked the city to make accommodations for her.

Two weeks later, Reynolds' alleges, city representatives met with her and said she was suffering from nothing more than allergic symptom and that -- in the city's view -- she had no disability.

-- Bryan Denson


The above originally appeared here.


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