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Employee Exposed to Perfume at Work Allowed Workers' Compensation Benefits
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Employee Exposed to Perfume at Work Allowed Workers' Compensation Benefits

Workers' Compensation

A licensed practical nurse who suffered from a preexisting pulmonary disability could recover benefits against her employer when a co-employee sprayed perfume at work. The NJ Appellate Division ruled that a licensed practical nurse was allowed to seek benefits when exposed to an employee's perfume even though the injured worker came to the employment with severe pre-existing obstructive lung disease.

The Second Injury Fund is a government-run program that provides financial assistance to workers who suffer a work-related injury or illness made worse by a pre-existing disability or condition. It is intended to help workers who may not be able to return to work due to the combined effects of their disability and their work-related injury or illness.

In the case of perfume exposure at work, the worker may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits if the exposure resulted in a medical condition or injury. These benefits may include payment for medical expenses, lost wages, and other related costs.

However, suppose the worker has a pre-existing disability or condition made worse by the perfume exposure. In that case, they may also be eligible for additional financial assistance from the Second Injury Fund. This may include additional payments to compensate for the worker's inability to return to work or to cover the cost of rehabilitation and other medical treatments.

To be eligible for benefits from the Second Injury Fund, workers must file a formal claim petition for workers' compensation against their employer or insurance company with the NJ Division of Workers' Compensation for benefits. If the claim is approved, the worker may then be eligible to file a claim with the Second Injury Fund.

It is important to note that the Second Injury Fund is a last resort for workers who are unable to receive adequate compensation through traditional workers' compensation or other disability benefits. As such, it is typically only available to workers who have suffered severe injuries or disabilities due to their work-related such as occupational exposure to perfume or other substances.

The 64-year-old nurse, who had smoked one pack daily for 43 years, had a severe reaction when a coworker sprayed her with perfume on two occasions. The nurse became oxygen dependent and never returned to work.

Exposure to perfume can have various adverse health effects, depending on the specific ingredients in the perfume and the individual's sensitivity to those ingredients. Some common adverse health effects that have been reported in association with exposure to perfume include:

  1. Allergic reactions: Many people are allergic to certain ingredients found in perfume, such as fragrances, preservatives, and colorants. These allergies can manifest as skin irritation, hives, rashes, or other dermatological symptoms. In severe cases, allergic reactions to perfume can cause anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.

  2. Respiratory problems: Some people may experience respiratory symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath, when exposed to perfume. This can be especially problematic for people with asthma or other respiratory conditions.

  3. Migraines and other headaches: Some people are sensitive to the chemicals in perfume and may experience migraines or other headaches due to exposure.

  4. Nausea and vomiting: Some people may experience nausea or vomiting after exposure to certain perfumes, particularly if they have a strong or overpowering scent.

  5. Hormonal disruption: Some studies have suggested that certain ingredients found in perfume, such as phthalates, may disrupt the endocrine system and interfere with the body's natural hormone production.

It is important to note that not all people will experience adverse health effects from exposure to perfume, and the severity of these effects can vary widely. If you are concerned about the potential health effects of perfume, it is recommended that you speak with a healthcare professional for guidance.

The court reasoned that the accident occurred during her employment and arose out of her employment. The exposure at work was deemed a "neutral risk" out of the employee's control. The court determined that had she not been at work, she would not have had this exposure and reaction. The court held that the co-employee actions injured the nurse and that the employee "...had to breathe to fulfill her contract of service, contaminated by a co-employee, was a condition of the employment for Sexton and thus a risk of 'this' employment for her." The court reasoned that the injury was not self-inflicted and that the employer takes their employees as they find them. "Employers are responsible for the treatment of a preexisting condition which is exacerbated by a work accident."  Johnson v. CITY & SUBURBAN DELIVERY SYSTEM, NJ: Appellate Div. 2014​​​​​.

The Second Injury Fund was also held responsible for the pre-existing COPD condition was the intent of to encourage hiring workers with pre-exisiting conditions. In this case, the pre-existing condition was not the sole cause of the injury, making them liable. "The purpose of the Second Injury Fund is "to encourage the hiring by industry of people handicapped by pre-existing disabilities." LAMBOUR v. ADAMAR OF NEW JERSEY, INC., NJ: Appellate Div. 2011.

Sexton v. County of Cumberland, Sexton v. County of Cumberland, 962 A.2d 1114, 404 N.J. Super. 542 (Super. Ct. App. Div. 2009).


The author, Jon L. Gelman, practices law in Wayne, NJ. He is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman  1.973.696.7900 have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

Recommended Citation: Gelman, Jon L.,  Employee Exposed to Perfume at Work Allowed Workers' Compensation Benefits, (2009),

© 2001-2023 Jon L Gelman. All rights reserved.

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