Caltrans Loses Appeal, Must Pay $3M in Employee’s Perfume Allergy Lawsuit. Estimated 55 Million American Adults have Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)

By B.N. Frank

Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) has been recognized as a disabling condition by the Americans for Disability Act (See 1, 2).  Within the past decade, chemical sensitivity and diagnosed Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS) has increased significantly with an estimated 55 million American adults who now have it.  Last year, University of Melbourne research revealed that 1 in 4 Americans report sensitivity to common chemicals such as inspect spray, paint, cleaning supplies, fragrances, and gas fumes.  Almost ½ of this group was also medically diagnosed with MCS. This seems to indicate that 1/8 of Americans are suffering from MCS.

In March a jury decided that a California company must pay $3M to an employee after ignoring his request for accommodation due to diagnosed chemical allergies.  From the Sacramento Bee:

Caltrans must abide by a jury’s decision to award $3 million to an employee who claimed his supervisors harassed him by ignoring his allergies to perfume and several cleaning products, an appeals court ruled Thursday.

The ruling appears to leave Caltrans little room to keep fighting the award, which a Nevada County jury set in May 2017 after a one-month trial.

Employee John Barrie, 62, of Grass Valley, filed suit after supervisors repeatedly ignored directives to keep perfumes and cleaning chemicals like Windex and Comet away from him starting in 2010. He said his supervisor called him an “idiot” and a “jerk” and that after his desk was moved he would sometimes find his things soaked in perfume.

Caltrans contested the jury’s $3 million figure. A trial court judge sided with the department, ruling the award was “so excessive as to indicate that it was prompted by passion, prejudice, whim or caprice” on the part of the jury.

That judge determined that $350,000 would be fair and reasonable, according to court documents. Barrie appealed the judge’s decision, saying the judge didn’t cite sufficient evidence for his decision. The Third Appellate District Court of Appeal agreed with him in its ruling Thursday directing Caltrans to pay him the full $3 million judgment.

“I am very pleased at the Third Appellate District Court’s unanimous ruling today,” Barrie said in an email. “This ruling is a major victory for disabled persons everywhere, including those with ‘invisible’ disabilities, such as heart disease, epilepsy, diabetes, and chemical sensitivities. This ruling sends a clear message to employers everywhere: honor the rights of the disabled and ensure they are accommodated.”


In addition to the $3 million, the appeal court ruled Caltrans has to pay Barrie about $44,000 in lost income, and it has to pay his attorneys’ fees for the appeal.

According to research posted at Environmental Health Trust, exposure to WiFi and other Electromagnetic Fields increases chemical sensitivity:

wireless and EMF radiation can synergistically increase the effect of these daily toxic exposures because of the ways in which wireless radiation alters the body’s natural functioning.

Wireless radiation has been shown to damage sleep and the blood-brain barrier, which in turn can lead to higher toxic load on the body.

…research studies have found that a known carcinogen exposure in combination with wireless and EMF exposure leads to a significantly increased risk of cancer development. highlighted several factors along with research to substantiate them including:

  1. Wireless radiation impairs the body’s ability to protect itself from toxic chemicals by damaging the blood-brain barrier.
  2. Wireless has been shown to increase children’s symptoms of lead poisoning.
  3. Non-ionizing radiation is used as a medical treatment to deliver chemotherapy into the brain because of its ability to open up the blood-brain barrier.
  4. Early U.S. Military research showed that wireless opened up the blood-brain barrier but was dismissed.
  5. Wireless acts synergistically with toxic exposures to significantly increase cancer risk.
  6. Additional research on other types of electromagnetic fields adds to the weight of evidence showing EMF can act as a tumor promoter.

Electromagnic Sensitivity (ES) has also been federally recognized as a disabling condition.  It has a long history and was originally named “Microwave Sickness” in the 1950s.  Many people who have MCS also have Electromagnetic Sensitivity.  The EI Wellspring website provides great information about how to cope for those who suffer with both conditions. 

In 2010, experts stated that as many as 1/3 of the population is “sensitive” to sources of “Electrosmog” which includes “Dirty Electricity” as well as cell phone and wireless WiFi radiation.”  No one is immune to sources of Electrosmog though some will handle exposure better than others.  Of course after enough exposure it’s possible for anyone to become “sensitive.”  Exposure also affects animals.

Unfortunately many doctors and vets still don’t consider Electrosmog exposure when diagnosing and treating patients.

For more information, visit the following websites:

Image credit: Pixabay

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