Is Body Odor Covered Under the ADA?

“Body-odor” does not seem like it could be 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

Thanks to Jon Hyman at Ohio Employer’s Law Blog for calling this issue to my attention.

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