If I have a chronic pain illness and use essential oils to releive some pain so that I don’t have to take as much medication at work, is the smell of these oils illegal?

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If I have a chronic pain illness and use essential oils to releive some pain so that I don’t have to take as much medication at work, is the smell of these oils illegal?

The problem is that I just started on a new team and my new manager met with me today stating the perfume is a dress code violation, so he wrote me up. I do not use perfume. I do use a blend of essential oils for pain, inflamation and brain fog. Also. I do have FMLA for fibro, sciatia, fatigue. tThese oils help me not to have to take a whole painkiller during the day. What should I do? No one has ever complained before.

Asked on October 4, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

An employer cannot discriminate against someone due to his or her disability; and the employer must make "reasonable accomodations" for the employee due to his or her disability, which could include modifications of the dress code. However, the employer does not have to allow accomodations that disrupt the workplace. So a key issue is whether the oils, etc. are causing problems for other employees. If the scent/smell of them are causing problems, the employer can probably require you to cease using them. On the other hand, if the scent/smell is not disrupting the workplace AND 1) you can document or prove your medical conditions and 2) can document or prove that these oils are a recommended or approved treatment for your conditions--i.e. you may need some medical evidence, prescription, etc.--then the employer most likely has to allow you to use them.

What may be a sticking point is getting the medical testimony, evidnece, prescription, etc. that these oils are an accepted treatment--if you cannot furnish that, then the employer may not have to consider them a "reasonable accomodation" and could enforce its dress code.


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