Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Having Said That...

This time, I'm going to reprint an article in its entirety. Because of dealing with extraordinary problems due to my own extreme perfume allergy, I was heartened to see this verdict. I don't expect it will stand, at least not in the amount awarded, since we have litigation caps in place almost everywhere now (contrary to popular belief).

I do hope it will make people think twice about things like wearing perfume to the workplace. It's not like you're out on a date. And if someone deliberately and knowingly, spitefully, wears the stuff around an allergic person, I believe they do deserve punitive damages. I've had people do that to me -- back in the days when I still kept trying to work, beating my head against the wall, as those folks sneered at my real and serious health problems. I never faulted most people, who simply could not understand, but tried. I do fault those very few who decided to take malicious actions on purpose. By the way - they're still able to work today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Radio DJ wins $10.6 million in stink over perfume

WYCD personality claims she was fired after co-worker's scent made her sick.
By David Shepardson / The Detroit News

DETROIT -- A former top-ranked radio host, who claims she was sickened by a colleague's use of a perfume described as "romantic, sensual, emotional," won $10.6 million in a federal court lawsuit Monday.

Erin Weber, who was on the air at WYCD-FM (99.5), contends in her suit that she was fired in 2001 after she complained about being exposed to Tresor perfume, which sells for $45.50 a bottle and is described by Lancome as a combination of ingredients such as rose and lilac. She said she was sickened by the fumes, a condition that began when a co-worker exposed her to spilled nail-polish remover in the country music station's Southfield studio.

The perfume was worn, her suit said, by another radio personality, Linda Lee, whose legal surname is Bullock.

"I'm thankful that the jury took so much time to come to the right conclusion," Weber, 43, of Cleveland, said after the verdict. "It's a great day."

The verdict awarded her $7 million in punitive damages, $2 million in mental anguish and emotional distress and $1.6 million for past and future compensation after a six-woman jury in U.S. District Court in Detroit spent eight days deliberating.

Weber claimed exposure to Tresor caused her to lose her voice and take lengthy absences from work. She also said she once "felt an electric shock quell through my entire body" and required heavy medication to combat the effects.

Weber says she been unable to get another job in radio since she was fired in 2001 and claims Infinity Broadcasting "blacklisted her" -- a claim the company rejects. She now works as a freelance voiceover specialist and can be heard on thousands of Otis elevators all over the country, announcing the number of each floor.

Weber, who began work in March 1999, claimed that soon afterward, co-workers spilled "toxic chemicals" in the radio studio and she suffered "raw chemical burns to her airways and sinuses." Her doctor, Martin Charles, "warned (Weber) that further exposure to perfume could even result in death," a brief from her lawyers said.

Her doctor said Weber shouldn't be exposed to co-worker Lee's Tresor perfume.

Weber claimed Lee, who is co-host of the Edwards & Lee afternoon show, intentionally exposed her to her perfume. WYCD said it specifically required Lee to stop wearing any perfume in response to Weber's complaints. The station said in its response that it modified Weber's schedule so they wouldn't come into conduct during shift changes.

In a May 2001 e-mail to the station manager, presented as evidence, Weber said Lee's perfume caused her to lose her voice and that Lee intentionally walked by her at the Downtown Detroit Hoedown -- a popular annual country music festival. "Linda nearly brushed past me and a cloud of perfume trailed behind me," Weber wrote.

"To have brought the perfume with her suggests forward planning. This appears to be a premeditated attack which was entirely unprovoked by me in anyway," Weber wrote. "Please tell me what steps you plan to take to ensure my safety."

Lee did not return a telephone message seeking comment left at the radio station.

Weber's lawyer, Raymond Sterling, said his client doesn't have problems with "natural smells" but does with the chemical basis of the perfume -- a fact he says was confirmed by three doctors at the weeklong civil trial.

"The real reason she was fired is that management didn't make her stop wearing the perfume," Sterling, a Troy lawyer, said. "There are co-workers in all walks of life that don't get along for one reason or another, but it's up to management to handle the situation."

Weber was fired in September 2001.

The station is owned by Infinity Broadcasting. Infinity lawyer Daniel Tukel said in a court filing that the toxic chemicals in the studio were Glade Air Freshener and acetone, used once for manicures during a morning-show "bit."

In October 2000, Weber took a three-month medical leave and returned to work in January 2001.

A spokeswoman for Infinity said the company planned to appeal. "We're disappointed in the verdict and intend to make all the appropriate post-trial motions," said Karen L. Mateo.

Mateo also said the company's lawyers believe the $7 million punitive damages verdict will be reduced to $300,000. Federal law generally caps punitive damages at $300,000 for the claims that Weber brought.

Weber's lawyer said that's likely, but they will try to convince the judge to uphold the full verdict. Weber's lawyer also said they will ask the judge to order Infinity to pay Weber's legal bills, which could hike the verdict.

Weber, who was a 26-year radio veteran, also claimed the station paid her far less than her male co-workers. She was nominated five times for the Country Music Assocation's Personality of the Year award.

The station manager, Lisa Rodman, said in a deposition that Weber "always gave top-level professional work to the station."

Weber previously worked in Cleveland at top-rated WGAR. The station admitted that "(Weber) had both the highest revenues and highest profits of all of WYCD's shows" in 2000, Weber's last full year at the station.

In 2001, frustrated with the "glass ceiling" at the station, Weber said she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The station then retaliated, she said, by taking away an endorsement deal, removing her e-mail account and assigning her a new shift.

You can reach David Shepardson at (313) 222-2028 or dshepardson@ detnews.com.


Desert Cat said...

The "stink bomb" at my place of employment retired a few months ago, thankfully. I swear she had to be buying it by the gallon.

Next door a secretary burns those godawful berry scented candles and other abominations to stink up her workspace. I keep the door between, firmly closed.

I love carefully balanced essential oil blends, but these synthetic stink molecules that some people love to use in excess, present an affront to my nostrils that sometimes physically hurt my sinuses. Thankfully I'm not actually allergic to any of this kind of stuff.

Desert Cat said...

K, you need a paypal or Amazon link so people can help you out in a pinch, like when your modem fries.

Ok. So I don't have a paypal link either. Maybe I need to figure out how to add one, then show you how.

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