Fragrance in the Workplace

Jodee Redmond
Fragrance may be a problem at work.

The problem of fragrance in the workplace is one that many businesses have to deal with. The quality of indoor air is something that business owners, managers and employees need to be concerned with.

Products With Fragrance that May Cause Problems in the Workplace

A number of products are scented and can cause a reaction in people who are sensitive to fragrances on the job. Here are some examples:

  • Air Fresheners
  • Cleaning Products
  • Copy Machine Toner
  • Deodorant
  • Disinfectants
  • Fabric Softener
  • Hair Spray
  • Hand Lotion
  • Mouth Wash
  • Nail Polish
  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Sunscreen

Some people claim to be sensitive to other types of aromas that might be present in the workplace, such as coffee or certain foods.

Physical Symptoms of Fragrance Sensitivity

A person who is sensitive to fragrances may experience the following types of symptoms:

  • Burning Eyes
  • Headache
  • Hives
  • Nausea
  • Sinus Congestion
  • Tightening Sensation in the Throat

Dealing with the Problem of Fragrance in the Workplace

Rather than trying to impose a complete ban on all products that have a fragrance on the job, a better choice for company owners and managers is to develop a policy about the use of fragrances by employees. Certain items, such as scented candles, plug-ins and incense can be banned outright. The policy should explain that some people suffer negative effects from being exposed to fragrances. All workers should be cautioned against the excessive use of scented products and perfumes.

If a worker is having a problem due to the problem of fragrance in the workplace, he or she should be instructed to report the issue to the Human Resources Department. If the company is a small one, the matter can be discussed with a supervisor, manager, or the business owner. The person who is using the scented products can then be approached and informed that there is an issue with their use of fragrance. The manager or supervisor can ask the employee to refrain from using the product when they are scheduled to work.

Employers can do their part to ensure that the air quality in the workplace is kept at an acceptable level by scheduling regular indoor air quality tests. If repairs or updates need to be made to the ventilation system, they can be scheduled.

Accommodations in the Workplace

Employers can also make accommodations for employees who are sensitive to fragrances in the workplace. Under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities. Under the Act, "reasonable accommodation may include job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, appropriate adjustment or modifications of examinations, training materials or policies, the provision of qualified readers or interpreters and other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities."If the employee is having issues because of where their work station is located, the employer can change where they sit. Another way to deal with an employee who is sensitive to fragrances is to offer them the chance to do at least some of their work from home, if that is feasible. The employer has a legal responsibility to provide an accommodation to a disabled employee, so long as it does not cause an undue hardship.


Fragrance in the workplace is an issue that employers and workers need to take seriously. People who are sensitive to scented products may be able to claim that they have a disability, and employers are required to make accommodations so that they can do their jobs. Having a fragrance policy in place may help to avoid some issues around the problem of fragrance in the workplace.

Fragrance in the Workplace