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Wearing Scented Products Like Perfume or Cologne in Public Could Become Regulated

Fox Chicago
February 3rd, 2012

Put a twist on a classic office dilemma: What to do about a co-worker who wears cologne or perfume that's, let's say, disagreeable.

Just about everyone has a story. What's new is that people are getting serious about dealing with the issue.

How serious? In New Hampshire, a law has been proposed, that would ban state employees who work with the public from wearing fragrances or any scented products on the job.

There's a serious reason behind the law. Some people are allergic to perfume and cologne.

The stuff can also trigger reactions in asthma sufferers. The reported effects include skin rashes, headaches, nausea, and breathing problems. Generally speaking, asthma can be deadly when it's not controlled.

FOX Chicago News Skyped tonight with a woman in the south suburbs who has asthma. The Homer Glen resident had a scare once when a man on an airplane was wearing cologne.

Maureen Keane isn’t yet sold on banning fragrances, like the New Hampshire plan. But she said it is worth exploring - and at the very least, more public awareness is needed.

"I think sometimes people might trivial it, and they oh think get over it,” Keane said. “It's just perfume. But it actually causes a physical reaction that's dangerous for people."

About two years ago, the city of Detroit banned some of its employees from wearing scented products. The move came after a lawsuit was filed by a worker. The case settled for $100,000.

The worker claimed she was having trouble breathing when a colleague refused to stop wearing strong perfume, and the city failed to step in and help.

The fragrance issue could put businesses on the hook for legal liability. The head of the human resources department here at FOX Chicago said all employers need take it seriously.

“If they don’t, you give the wrong impression to your employees, like ‘What you say doesn’t matter,’” HR Director Rafael Meza said. “You could be facing legal action if it isn’t addressed.”

He said companies can ask workers to lighten up on the perfume or cologne.

Department stores are known for their fragrance sections. So FOX Chicago got some more opinions about banning perfume and cologne at work, outside Macy’s on State Street.

Some people thought it should definitely be banned, others thought it might be impeding on individual rights, and still others said, “She can wear perfume if she wants to.”