“Former DJ wins lawsuit against employer over perfume allergy” reads the May 24th headline for a Detroit news story detailing the $10.6M verdict awarded to a woman who asserted that a co-workers perfume, Lancome Tresor, made her lose her voice and miss work. Infinity Broadcasting Inc. was said to have discriminated against her for a disability (her allergy) and also retaliated after she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. On Tuesday, May 24, after eight days in deliberations, the six-woman federal jury awarded the former employee $7M in punitive damages, $2M in mental anguish and emotional distress, and $1.6M for past and future compensation.
Responding to IAQ complaints should always be taken seriously and investigated fully. In most cases, the building or facilities manager is first alerted to potential IAQ problems by occupants. Establishing clear procedures for responding to and resolving complaints will ensure that all complaints are handled in a consistent and fair manner. If building occupants know that there is a procedure in place, they will be more likely to provide prompt, helpful input about building conditions. And if the procedure is followed, a scenario like the one above is unlikely to occur.
- Prepare and follow clear procedures for recording and responding to IAQ complaints, including:
- Logging entries into your existing work-order system,
- Collecting pertinent information from the complainant,
- Ensuring the confidentiality of information and records obtained from complainants,
- Designing a plan that determines the response limits of in-house staff and identifies appropriate outside sources of assistance
- A series of planned remedial actions appropriate for common conditions or scenarios
- Providing feedback to the complainant, and
- Following-up to ensure that remedial action has been effective.
2. Inform building staff of these procedures.
3. Inform building occupants and/or tenants of these procedures and periodically remind them how to locate responsible staff and where to obtain complaint forms.
EH&E assists building managers and facility engineers with our Indoor Air Quality Management Program which includes training in IAQ issues, investigation techniques, remedial activities, and a complete manual with sample management protocols and templates for communications with occupants on IAQ.