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How to Handle a Coworker With Strong Perfume

by Eliza Martinez, studioD

If you're one of the many people sensitive to fragrances, working near someone who wears cologne or perfume can be agonizing. If you suffer from allergies or asthma, sniffing someone else's fragrance all day can induce uncomfortable or even dangerous reactions. You don't have to grin and bear it though, because there are steps you have the right to take to protect yourself at work.

Talking to the Co-Worker

In many cases, people don't realize that their perfume is too strong. They get used to the scent and don't notice it. If you know the person pretty well and have worked together for some time, it's appropriate to approach your co-worker and talk about the issue. "U.S. News and World Report" suggests making the problem about you rather than about your co-worker. For example, let her know that her strong perfume gives you a headache or makes your asthma flare. In many cases, she probably doesn't even realize that her perfume is noticeable to others at a distance.

Taking it to a Supervisor

If approaching your co-worker yourself doesn't work or it makes you uncomfortable, take the issue to a supervisor who works above your strong-smelling co-worker. Let the supervisor know that you're having difficulty working near the the person because of her fragrance. Your supervisor can then approach your co-worker and talk to her about laying off the perfume at work. If you fear the repercussions of such a talk, ask your supervisor to keep your request anonymous.

Your Rights

If you suffer severe allergies and experience symptoms when exposed to perfume, you condition may be considered a disability, which is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Business Management Daily. This means you have rights with regard to your sensitivity to perfume at work, including the right to move your workspace away from someone who wears heavy perfume. Talk to your boss about implementing a fragrance policy to protect your rights and keep you from getting sick at work.

Fragrance Policy

Implementing a fragrance policy helps people with a fragrance sensitivity work in a comfortable and safe environment. While this isn't required by law, your workplace can ask employees to stick to mild scents and refrain from using lots of perfume before heading to work. In some offices, this policy is added to the dress code and in some it's a separate rule. If a co-worker who douses herself in perfume refuses to stop, disciplinary action can be taken. If you end up needing time off due to allergies or asthma that's exacerbated by strong perfume, make sure you fill out Family Medical Leave forms, suggests "Business Management Daily."

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

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