ADA Accommodations Scenario

Do you know What to Do If An Employee Asks For An ADA Accommodation For Allergies?

Let’s navigate these complex Integrated Medical Leaves and Accommodation challenges TOGETHER.

In less than 5 minutes LMS can provide you with strategies to manage your CA PDL/FMLA, ADA/FEHA, CFRA Baby Bonding (BB) challenges.

It really is crazy how complex handling medical leaves and accommodations has become in California. That being said, it is easy to understand why so many HR / Leave Coordination managers are not that clear on how to manage these situations.

Let me tell you how I helped this organization solve their challenges with unpredictable leave, avoiding litigation… 

We are going to use an employee named Angela as an example...Angela has asked for an ADA Accommodation for her Allergies.


Angela has reported she has allergies to everything, especially perfumes, scents and fragrances. 

Her workgroup is very accommodating, but a new hire (who agreed at hire not to wear fragrances) triggers Angela’s allergies with the hair products she wears (at least Angela believes that is what it is). 

Angela currently has her own office with an air filtration system. What else is the employer required to do to protect Angela from office allergens?

The Solution:

Over the years HR has started to get some clarification regarding how employers should address employees with severe allergies in the workplace. Since the employee has already generously implemented a fragrance free workplace, provided Angela a well ventilated office, and obtained agreement regarding a fragrance free workplace policy from the new employee, it sounds like it is time to clarify for Angela how formally inform the employer about any concerns regarding the effectiveness of the accommodation and specifically how to  request assistance from HR if she is impacted by a fragrance in the workplace, whatever the source (co-worker, customer, vendor, etc.). 

Depending on the type of organization and work environment, it not always possible to eliminate ALL potential allergens and this requested accommodation could be considered unreasonable and an Undue Hardship. However, it is important to implement a clear and objective process when conducting the Reasonable Accommodation Interactive Meetings and completing the Undue Hardship analysis. Talk to Angela, implement a formal Good Faith Interactive Meeting to discuss her current concerns and clarify your expectations regarding how she should communicate with HR regarding exposures to fragrances that she may experience.   

These are tricky issues that require very well developed, consistent, and specifically documented Good Faith Interactive Meetings, keeping good notes, as well as solid Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Analysis implementation procedures. Of course having HR discuss the current concern and the fragrance free policy in more detail with the new employee may easily resolve the exposure issue. However other considerations could include allowing Angela to work from her office, without engaging the co-worker who is impacting her due to their fragrance directly.  This could be accomplished by facilitating communications between Angela and the coworker by telephone, email or even Skype, rather than speaking with her face-to-face. Another potential accommodation could consider relocating the new employee to a section of the workspace that is removed from where Angela’s office is located, if this does not impact the operations of the organization. Creativity and consideration are often the key with these types of accommodations. 

What is important is that there is a formal Interactive Process Meeting conducted that facilitates an  opportunity for HR and Angela to work through Angela’s concerns, determine the impact the issue is having on Angela’s ability to perform the functions of her job, find out from Angela exactly what she is requesting be done (employers are not required to accommodate a 100% fragrance free workplace - however we are still obligated to engage in the Interactive Process to determine what could be a reasonable accommodation), determine if Angela’s request is unreasonable, and help Angela identifying alternative strategies/accommodations that would allow her to perform the essential functions of the job with or without accommodation.

In The Trenches

By HR - For HR

The Ultimate Guide to California Medical Leaves and Accommodations, and Handling Performance Management and related EEO Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation Challenges

Over the last 20 years, we have had 100’s of HR professionals, consultants, benefits specialist, attorneys and even doctors to our coaching/mentoring/training sessions. PDL, FMLA/CFRA, ADA/FEHA, PFL, SDI, PFL, and Workers' Compensation as well as strategies for Handling Performance Management and related Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation complaints from protected employees.

Jay Wilk

CA Human Resource Consultant

“Beth's approach is easy to understand, comprehensive, and enlightening. Anyone who needs to administer leaves of absence for their company should attend this workshop. Participants indeed obtain everything they need to administer leave of absence policies and procedures for their employees after attending this workshop. Beth offers one-on-one guidance following participation in the seminar through her website, discussion groups, and posts. She is extremely knowledgeable, and this information is an extremely critical part of the human resources function.”

As you can see, it really is not hard to avoid litigation or to handle these types of situations, you just need the tools and procedures in place to guide you through the situation. 

If you are in HR, and you are responsible for managing Integrated Medical Leaves and Accommodations, you need to know what you don’t know, about integrating Medical Leaves and Accommodation, this is a must attend event for you.

Right now our early bird pricing is only $797…Click the button below and register today. Imagine the thousands of dollars you could avoid on attorney’s fees, litigation and settlements - get equipped to handle any situation at any time, it’s that easy. 

We keep the training classes to a reasonable size to allow plenty of time to assure all attendees are getting their challenges addressed. Go ahead and click below to register today for one of our upcoming workshops, you will not want to miss this opportunity – register today.