When One Person's Scent Is Another Person's Disability

A California jury recently awarded a $3.3 million verdict to a California Department of Transportation (“CALTRANS”) employee who alleged a variety of disability-related claims involving CALTRANS’s failure to properly accommodate his allergy to certain scents and his supervisor’s and co-workers’ retaliatory actions in light of his requests for accommodation. The basis of the award was failure to accommodate the plaintiff’s disability – his allergic reaction to certain scents – and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and a similar state law. While it may be easy to dismiss such claims as insignificant or overwrought, the jury awards and settlements described below make clear that these claims can be serious and must be addressed.

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