The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has ruled that an employee
with a hypersensitivity to certain scents did not experience
discrimination in employment as a result of her employer's
inability to snuff out all smells in the workplace.
Susan Kovios has a scent and fragrance sensitivity. By all
accounts it is severe. On January 14th, 2010, Kovios commenced
employment with call center operator, Inteleservices Canada Inc. On
January 18th, Kovios left Inteleservices' office for good after
experiencing severe reactions to the perfumes and colognes worn by
her colleagues. In the human rights application that followed,
Kovios alleged that Inteleservices had failed to accommodate her
disability by failing to enforce its fragrance-free policy.
While it was unclear from the medical evidence whether
Kovios' scent sensitivity constituted a disability under
the Human Rights Code, noting that Inteleservices was prepared
to treat it as such, the Tribunal proceeded on the assumption that
Kovios did in fact have a disability within the meaning
of the Code. That said, given Kovios' hypersensitivity,
the Tribunal held that a more rigid enforcement of
Inteleservices' fragrance-free policy would have made little
difference in the circumstances. In the Tribunal's
view, Kovios "...required not only an environment
free of noticeable scents, but an environment free of scents that
were not detectable to others but affected her because of her
In any event, apart from the strict enforcement of its
fragrance-free policy, Kovios never explained to
Inteleservices what accommodation she was seeking. As a result, the
issue of whether Inteleservices had met its duty
to accommodate was never engaged. On that basis, the
Tribunal determined that Kovios had not been discriminated
FMC is one of Canada's leading business and litigation law
firms with more than 500 lawyers in six full-service offices
located in the country's key business centres. We focus on
providing outstanding service and value to our clients, and we
strive to excel as a workplace of choice for our people. Regardless
of where you choose to do business in Canada, our strong team of
professionals possess knowledge and expertise on regional, national
and cross-border matters. FMC's well-earned reputation for
consistently delivering the highest quality legal services and
counsel to our clients is complemented by an ongoing commitment to
diversity and inclusion to broaden our insight and perspective on
our clients' needs. Visit:
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).