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BOSTON MARATHON: Complete Coverage

Employees Who Smell

(File photo)

(File photo)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Can you actually be fired because of the way you smell?

Stephanie Cannon, of Fridley, Minnesota, smoked for 18 years – but never at work because that would have violated her employer’s no smoking policy. She was fired, but not for smoking – because that would have violated a Minnesota state law that protects smokers. Instead, her employer claimed she was fired for reeking of cigarettes. Is that legal? Yes.

Be it smelling like smoke, having terrible breath, wearing too much perfume or too little deodorant, body odor is a problem in virtually every workplace because it affects coworkers but is very personal. The fact is that employees can be disciplined for issues that affect their coworkers, even if it’s not related to the tasks they perform.

So if you have a stinky subordinate or coworker, it’s legally acceptable to tell them, privately and sensitively, that you’d hate for them to be embarrassed but as someone who cares you think they should know that they have an issue with their odor before someone finds it easier to fire them than to have a straightforward discussion.