Disability accommodation litigation as well as employee complaints have led many employers to develop scent-free workplace policies. Is there a good way to go about adding such a policy and a bad way? Of course.
The bad way. Be self-righteous about the iniquity of wearing smelly chemicals and the rights of employees to a fragrance-free workplace. Spring the policy on employees with no warning or discussion. Hang obnoxious accusatory unwelcoming signs around the workplace. (The online Canary Report has some excellent examples of this type of sign. Scroll down to “Signs”).
The good way. First: keep it short and simple. No need for long explanations, accusations, medico-legal discussions, etc. Second: get input from employees before enacting the policy and give them some lead time. (This may sound silly – how hard is it to stop wearing perfume? – but some may have to change their deodorant or hairspray practices!) For a discussion of a thorough fragrance policy adoption process, check out the Canadian Lung Association website and type in “scent-free.” Third, if needed, put some clear but respectful signs around the office.
So what’s a good fragrance policy look like? After reading a number of policies online, here is my contribution to the literature. It’s an amalgam of two policies, one from the Society for Human Resource Management website, the other from a unit of Kaiser Permanente:
“Employees and visitors to our organization may have sensitivity and/or allergic reactions to various fragrant products. Therefore, [Company Name] is a fragrance-free workplace. Personal products (fragrances, colognes, lotions, powders, deodorants, shaving and hair products, and other similar items) that are perceptible to others should not be worn by employees. Other fragrant products (scented candles, potpourri and similar items) are also not permitted in the workplace.
Any employee with a concern about scents or odors should contact his or her manager or the Human Resource Department.”
What are your thoughts or experiences with workplace fragrance policies? ~Amy Stephson