The Americans with Disabilities Act is an important piece of legislation because it protects individuals from being discriminated against on the basis of having a disability. Employers cannot pass over an otherwise qualified applicant on the grounds of that individual being disabled, and need to make reasonable accommodations for workers who have certain ailments. People with chemical sensitivities may fall within the ADA if their sensitivity inhibits their ability to perform certain tasks. If you have an employee with this condition, you may be required to make reasonable accommodations in order to prevent a lawsuit.
What Falls Under the ADA?
The ADA does not necessarily have a list of ailments that a person must have in order to qualify for protections under the law. Instead, if a person has a condition that prevents him or her from carrying out certain actions, then he or she would fall under protections within the ADA. Therefore, chemical sensitivity in and of itself does not fall within the act, but if the condition causes difficulty with any of the following activities, then it would be covered:
- Caring for yourself
- Functions within the reproductive, endocrine, circulatory and neurological systems
Numerous other tasks may be inhibited. If a worker is unable to do certain actions due to nearby chemicals, then steps must be taken to help him or her.
What Is Expected of You?
If an employee comes to you and says that he or she is experiencing difficulties with certain actions due to a chemical sensitivity, then it is expected for you to accommodate. However, the law states that these accommodations cannot place an undue hardship on you as the employer. Essentially, you are not expected to do something crazy or completely unreasonable to accommodate one person. Often though, there should be a fairly easy solution that can be executed so that everyone is happy.
Steps to Take
Having sensitivity to certain chemicals is not something you are going to notice in someone on the surface. Your employee will need to approach you to say what the sensitivity is. The best case scenario would be an employee approaching with clear information about what triggers the sensitivity, what the sensitivity causes and a list of possible solutions for fixing the problem. You should ask the employee if there are certain tasks that would be more likely to trigger these sensitivities. Once you implement accommodations, you should schedule another time to meet with the employee to evaluate their effectiveness. This will let you know if more needs to be done or if you have solved the problem.
Easy Actions to Take
Everyone’s chemical sensitivity is different and will require a different solution. However, here are some of the most common actions that are typically implemented:
- Provide adequate ventilation throughout the building
- Offer employees surgical masks and latex-free gloves
- Keep the building free of pollutants, including tobacco smoke, fragrances, pesticides, toxic cleaning agents and exhaust fumes
- Have an exhaust system in place to eliminate fumes created by copiers and other office machines
- Have working windows within your building
- Give everyone advanced notice if you are going to have a painting, floor waxing, remodeling or similar jobs done around the office
- Try to schedule any remodeling activities to take place when fewer people are around
- Use non-toxic products when possible for cleaning or furnishing jobs
- Talk about the possibility of someone with a chemical sensitivity working from home or at a different office location when jobs involving chemicals are taking place in the building
Every situation is different, but as long as you and your employees are able to communicate effectively, you should be able to come up with a viable solution to any problem. Chemical sensitivities can be tough on employees, so do whatever you can to help your workers.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.