Main Menu
Employment Law Alert: Two Interesting Decisions - One Involving A Scent-Triggered Allergy Under The ADA & The Other A Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment Claim

On August 31, an Illinois federal district court rejected a disability discrimination/failure to accommodate claim brought under the ADA against Morgan Stanley Dean Witter by an office worker with “extremely high sensitivity” to perfumes and other fragrances. The Court concluded that Robinson’s condition did not substantially limit her in the major life activities of caring for herself, walking, seeing, breathing, learning or working.  Therefore, she was not “disabled” as that term is defined by the ADA.  Moreover, in an effort to alleviate Robinson’s symptoms, Morgan Stanley had taken several corrective measures, including special seating arrangements, the use of a fragrance-free rental car, intervention with certain employees who wore fragrances that tended to irritate Robinson, and a department-wide memorandum that was issued encouraging employees to be sensitive to others who might be bothered by their scents in the workplace.

In another interesting case, a Mississippi district court rejected a sexual harassment/hostile environment claim brought by a temporary production worker who had been assigned by Kelly Services to General Motor’s Brandon, Mississippi plant.  The worker, Kristin McGee, alleged that, shortly after she began her assignment, a GM Manager began harassing her by staring at her, making comments about her appearance, asking questions about her sexual activities, and making suggestive comments to her.  McGee eventually complained of the conduct, and HR undertook an investigation.  However, before the investigation could be concluded and corrective action taken against the manager, he went off work on a medical leave of absence.  Nevertheless, once the report was made, McGee was no longer subjected to any further harassing conduct.  Based on this evidence, the Court concluded that GM took prompt and effective remedial action once the complaint was brought to its attention.  Even though the alleged harasser had not received any corrective action for his alleged conduct, that was only because he was off work on a medical leave of absence.  His absence from the workplace, however, had effectively resolved the issue since McGee was not subjected to any further offensive conduct.

Bottom Line

These two cases are both good results for employers and are examples of courts carefully and correctly analyzing the claims before them.



Recent Posts




Back to Page