Is Bad Body Odor Really a Protected Disability?

by Evil HR Lady on January 4, 2018

Amber Bridges got fired because of bad body odor, but not hers. Another employee had bad body odor and Bridges tried to solve the problem by bringing in air fresheners and others followed suit. The smelly employee complained to HR and Bridges was fired for creating a “hostile work environment.”

A hostile work environment doesn’t mean that Bridges was being rude, it means that she violated a law against illegal discrimination. You’ll hear this term used most often in relationship to sexual and gender harassment, but it can be used in a case of disability discrimination as well.

Bridges is suing, rather ironically, saying her termination was a result of her association with the stinky co-worker, and that she should be protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well.

While we don’t have more details than that, I can already tell where this organization went wrong and how Bridges, herself, made mistakes.

To keep reading, click here: Is Bad Body Odor Really a Protected Disability?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

grannybunny January 4, 2018 at 4:02 pm

Bridges might be able to win her lawsuit if she can show that management failed in its duty to reasonably accommodate the disability, necessitating her self-help action in using the air fresheners, but it would be a stretch.


BethRA January 4, 2018 at 6:36 pm

Unless she had a disability herself that made her unable to function because of the odor, AND she tried to engage her employer in a process to make reasonable accommodations and they failed to do so, I don’t see how she’d be covered by the ADA.


Mr Dependable, Clinical, Intellectual, Cynical January 5, 2018 at 12:40 am

Reminds me of the ADA case between two sorority house residents (both at The Ohio State University), one of whom had a service animal, the other allergic to same animal!


Evil HR Lady January 5, 2018 at 1:47 pm

I don’t think for an instant that she’ll win.


Maria Rose January 4, 2018 at 8:54 pm

Bridget failed to follow the process by taking the action she took ( air refreshers). Obviously she didn’t deal/ verbally interact with the other employee whom she claims had an offensive body odor. Like stated in article, there’s many reasons that cause a body odor, but the person who should be having that conversation with the employee is management or HR. For all we know perhaps that discussion already occurred, which is why Bridget got the ax for harassment. In any case, don’t take things in your hands, unless it becomes a personal health issue like an allergy—I don’t believe there’s an allergy to body odor.


Mr Dependable, Clinical, Intellectual, Cynical January 5, 2018 at 12:43 am

Not all personally-emitting smells are due to hygiene, garlic, broccoli, kiim-chee, and curry can and do have lingering effects.


grannybunny January 8, 2018 at 7:32 pm

Stress can be a huge cause of offensive body odor.


Mr Dependable, Clinical, Intellectual, Cynical January 11, 2018 at 1:24 am

So true, as usual, grannybunny!


Beth January 10, 2018 at 12:11 am

What is the cause of the body odor? That should decide if it’s a real disability, but having to deal with it certainly isn’t a disability. This is a weird case, but one I’ve seen before. However, the employee just left because they felt attacked. It’d be easier to be upfront, but hey, humans suck, don’t they? 🙂


Humble April 23, 2018 at 10:23 pm

Just wanted to add that several common health problems can cause body odors beyond a person’s ability to manage them with traditional things like bathing and or deodorant. Wish i could get people to understand how crippling it is to deal with health issues then have to share them with people in a way that is the most looked down upon. Imagine the feeling that you have to try to manage the illness while living in terror that when (and it will happen some point in the day) you will have to endure people’s side-eye looks, fearing what rude thing will be said to you today. How do you make it through another day of deciding between pretending not to notice people saying cruel things and wanting to scream that you are sick, not that you are dirty or any other thing, when all you want to do is make a few dollars to pay your bills? Just like anyone else. I guess I could go on and on about this subject so i will just sum up by saying, please remember that sick people still get hungry, still have bills and still have feelings.


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