Detroit city employees are being asked not to wear perfume, cologne, aftershave, or use scented candles as a result of a settlement in a federal lawsuit. This decision comes from a 2008 lawsuit where a city employee complained that her coworker's strong perfume made it difficult for her to do her job, and was awarded $100,000. This news item made me think of my own workplace and what would happen if I went to my boss with a similar complaint. I imagine she would respond with three words: "Too effing bad."
This is because the public, in general, smells. In most cases the smell is usually tolerable (ex. you have stinky coffee breath, but you will stop talking and go away after 30 seconds), but there are some occasions when it is just pure evil. Last week as I was assisting an older gentleman with a computer tutorial I used the turtleneck part of my sweater as a filter to breathe through as I was quite sure the man had consumed poop for lunch. I had to do this for nearly an hour and felt so lightheaded with fresh air afterwards that I almost needed to go lay down under my desk.
This is a fairly regular occurrence. The teen volunteer with the murderous B.O., the quiet homeless guy who smells like pee, the lady who smokes so much I can smell her before I turn around. Oh, I'm sure I'm guilty too -- maybe I go a little overboard with that new perfume I like so much or perhaps I could use a stick of gum or two after having that tuna sub, but I certainly hope I've never gotten to the level of "soiled diaper coming through with a pinch of gasoline."
And what would happen if I were to complain about any of them in the library? Nothing, and I definitely wouldn't be on the receiving end of any court settlements. However, as county government employee I can imagine a memo coming down from admin alerting us to start going without deodorant.