The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal recently considered the types of accommodations employers are required to make with regard employees with scent sensitivites.
The employee, a teacher with the Coquitlam School District, filed a complaint with the Tribunal alleging that her employer’s failure to provide a scent-free work environment amounted to discrimination on the basis of physical disability, contrary to British Columbia’s Human Rights Code.
In an attempt to accommodate her disability, the School Board and the employee agreed upon an exposure control plan that would allow the employee to take steps to minimize her allergic reaction, including leaving the workplace if necessary. In addition to the exposure control plan, the School Board had carpet removed from the classroom, replaced all of the soap dispensers in the building with unscented soap, posted signs around the school, and spoke with parents and staff about being scent-free. Despite the attempts at accommodation, the employee continued to experience difficulty, resulting in several absences and eventually, a medical leave.
In dismissing her claim, the Tribunal held that employees with disabilities are not entitled to perfect accommodation and must co-operate with their employer in arriving at a reasonable accommodation plan. Here, the School Board took significant steps to accommodate the employee’s disability, including implementing a plan to which the employee agreed. Once a plan has been agreed upon, according to the Tribunal, working within that plan cannot constitute a breach of the Human Rights Code. Accordingly, the complaint was dismissed.