Is Body Odor Covered Under the ADA?

First off, the credits.  This one comes directly from Jon Hyman’s Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, from which I have learned a lot about Ohio employment law.  It’s a great resource and you should check it out.  And no, the name of this blog is NOT meant to confuse the two.  All of the other good titles for a workers’ compensation law blog aimed at Ohio employers were already taken.  And his blog covers employment law with a side of workers’ compensation.  Mine covers workers’ compensation-with a side of ADA/FMLA issues.  Besides, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

This one was too good to pass up. First off, “body-odor” as a protected condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)???  Depending upon the cause of the body odor, the condition actually might qualify under the right circumstances.  Secondly, it underscores another way employers can run afoul of the ADA-it also protects employees who are discriminated against based upon their relationship with a person with a covered disability.

In this case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, the plaintiff notified her supervisor about a co-worker’s “chronic body odor”.  She later installed air fresheners around the office, which prompted other workers to do the same.  After the worker with the body odor complained, the plaintiff was terminated for creating a hostile work environment towards her co-worker.

The plaintiff brought a lawsuit, alleging that “obnoxious chronic body odor” is a protected condition under the ADA. The plaintiff claimed that she was fired based upon her association with a person with a protected disability, in violation of the ADA’s provisions.

Here’s a link to the USA today story regarding this action, if you want to read more about this smelly situation-USA Today

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