Ex-Indianapolis employee files ‘chronic body odor’ lawsuit

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis is being sued by a former courts official who alleges that she was fired after she installed air fresheners to combat a co-worker’s body odor.

Amber Bridges’ federal lawsuit says she was fired last year for creating a hostile work environment after the malodorous co-worker complained about the air fresheners. According to the complaint, Bridges’ action to “improve the overall quality of air in the office” prompted other staff to install air fresheners in the work area.

The Dec. 21 complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana claims that employees and staff started complaining about the “chronic body odor” in November 2016. As a former lead staff in the magistrate court, Bridges notified her supervisors about the complaints and later installed the air fresheners.

Bridges claims her firing was unlawful according to her association with an individual with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Indianapolis Star reported . She alleges the co-worker’s body odor is a protected disability under the ADA.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says on its website that those who have an association with people who have a disability also are protected from workplace discrimination, including a person with a disabled spouse and someone who performs volunteer work for people with AIDS.

The commission claims that the standard exists to protect individuals from actions based on unfounded assumptions that their relationship to an individual with a disability would affect their job performance, according to their website.

The commission has considered body odor a protected disability in some cases.

Kevin Betz, an employment attorney, said it can be common for individuals to file suit against an employer based on an association with a disability. Betz said there are cases where a co-worker, family member or friend of an individual with a disability has received adverse actions in the workplace.

Both Bridges’ attorney and the city’s attorney declined the newspaper’s request for comment.

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