As I mentioned previously, Susan McBride has sued the city of Detroit to have her co-workers banned from wearing perfume at work. Not surprisingly, this has drawn a lot of reaction from a lot of people. Just do a google search and you’ll find websites that post the article and allow their visitors to comment.
I was appalled, though not truly surprised, at some of the comments that I read. Over the next several posts, I would like to address some of these comments and provide a view from someone who suffers similar problems to those of Susan McBride. I’ll start with 3 that I found quite often.
1) “She must be a slacker or malingerer. Trying to get out of work.”
This type of comment generally comes from someone who hasn’t read all the facts about the case. They just read the initial article, which, btw, came from a french news service. Digging a little deeper, you learn that Susan DID try to talk with the perfume-wearing co-worker. The co-worker agreed to turn off her “air freshener” but refused to stop wearing the perfume.
She’s not trying to get out of work, she’s fighting for her right to work. Sadly, people further think that she’s not really sick, it’s just an allergy. They’ll say “She doesn’t look sick”. As if there were some way she were supposed to look. And how would they know?
2) “Why doesn’t she just work from home?”
There are so many problems associated with that suggestion. I know. The last 2 years I worked in corporate America, I worked from home. And it was an up hill battle to get that ‘privilege’ (as my “manager” called it). She preferred that I remain working in the office, with a migraine so bad I could not think, than to work from home and be productive. (She measured productivity by how many hours you were in the office and how much time you spent chatting her up about all the work you were doing.)
If you are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, it isn’t the marvelous treat some think it is. I hear it all the time. “You’re so lucky to be able to work from home.” Lucky, hardly. It seriuosly separates you from the rest of the office. Even with e-mail, there’s still “Out of sight, out of mind.” You aren’t considered for the top projects. You’re overlooked for bonuses and raises. It’s a very career-limiting move.
3) “Why should we have to do anything? She is the one with the disorder.”
That has to top the list for insensitivity. Why should we do anything? For the same reason we put up wheel chair ramps, provide handicapped parking, put up important signs in Braille, etc. We all have to live on this planet. We all have disorders or afflictions of some sort or another, whether we admit them or not.
It’s not as if we’re asking people to not drink water or breathe air. We’re talking about perfume. A luxury. Something that you can live without. I have a friend who taught Nursing School. She said that years ago, they instructed nurses not to wear perfume. I also know people that work with the public and understand that their perfume doesn’t belong there. We need more people like that.
If you have to wear perfume, save it for your date. (Although you might want to make sure your date’s ok with it.)