Fragrance in the Workplace

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a no-fragrance policy:

Our workplace has a no-fragrance policy, which is often violated, by supervisors, as well as others. I don’t agree with the policy because the average female worker uses or wears: cologne, body lotion, face soap, facial lotion, deodorant, shampoo, hair mousse, hairspray, body soap, clothes detergent, fabric softener and other personal items. How can you regulate cologne/perfume? What, if any, are the legal ramifications of trying to enforce this policy? Thank you for your time.

Signed, Who Nose?

Dear Who Nose?:

Who knows how to prevent humans from wanting to smell good? I don’t nor do I want to. But we can make a concerted effort to not cause each other to be offended or irritated by certain odors. A fragrance-free workplace is one such effort and follows in some ways that of a smoke-free policy. However, even creating a smoke free workplace does not prevent smokers from coming to work with clothing or breath that carry the odor of tobacco.

Why does your workplace have a fragrance-free policy? Was it made policy because of health concerns? If so, then enforcing it must be a matter of management making that policy clear and firm. What was the process employed to develop the fragrance-free policy? Was it mandated by management? Was it a collaborative process of development? Why and how it was developed has a lot to do with psychological ownership in it. Gaining compliance after the fact might proof difficult, but a work group-by-work group review of the why and if of compliance should still be possible. If the need for it is collaboratively re-affirmed, supervisors should then inform individuals, who transgress, to the degree that fragrance is discernable, to come clean. And graduated policy of discipline or immediate suspension should be the rule. I know of no legal implications for enforcing fragrance-free regulations. Rather it is a matter of employer-employee relations and morale. I have a collection of our Q-As on fragrance concerns drawn from our archives. I will forward that to you under separate cover. Working together with hands, head, heart and consideration of noses too takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden