Accommodating the allergic employee in ontario
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology, allergies are a major cause of illness in the United States, affecting as many as 50 million people, or one in five Americans.One common allergy trigger, mold, can be found both in and out of the workplace, and can cause a variety of reactions, including for some, severe respiratory problems.Several recent decisions highlight issues faced by employers when dealing with employee allergies in and to the workplace. On June 1, a federal district court in Oklahoma found that an employee for an air conditioning and heating equipment manufacturer, who insisted she was disabled by a mold allergy triggered by her workplace environment, could not show she was disabled or regarded as disabled, or that she could fulfill the essential functions of her job from home.Two years into her employment, she sought treatment for a respiratory problem she believed was caused by her work environment.
Though she had breathing problems at work, that was not enough. While the employer did move her office, it refused to do so again.
Not only was there some evidence her coworkers believed her breathing problems were the result of anxiety issues, her physician found no medical evidence of any particular breathing problem. Because she could not identify a “trigger” for her problem, there was no reason to believe a second move would help.
Further, medical documentation did not show a disabling condition. Even diagnosing her with a mold allergy would not have made a difference, said the court, because there was no evidence of mold at the workplace. Sick teacher ‘could not work, period.’ In a decision just days earlier, a federal district court in Connecticut found an art teacher with severe allergies, who alleged that the environmental conditions in her building caused or exacerbated her health problems, led to her cancer diagnosis, and ultimately required her to take a series of medical leaves, could not show her eventual termination was the result of disability discrimination.
Nor could she show she was fired in retaliation for her complaints in the face of undisputed evidence of her employer’s sustained efforts to respond to her concerns about the air quality in her room.
After the school converted the teacher’s room into two classrooms, she became ill almost immediately, informing the principal that there were odors from the paints, sealants, and adhesives in the windowless room.
Upon learning she was being treated for bronchitis, asthma, and allergic rhinitis her doctor believed might be due to environmental issues, the school made multiple accommodations, including allowing her to teach “art on a cart,” installing an air conditioning unit and a window in the room, reconfiguring the door to provide air from the hallway, providing air cleaners, and allowing her to take several leaves of absence.