Do protections exist for workers with severe food allergies?

Anyone who has young children in school is probably extremely aware that food allergies are common; food allergies are on the rise. Just as more and more kiddos seem to be allergic to food such as peanuts, there are more workers within the workforce that suffer from serious food allergies. 

What does that have to do with workers’ rights and employment law? A lot. Employees who have serious allergic reactions to food should be able to feel safe while at work. Also, workers who become ill and unable to work because of food allergies can have protections under workers’ compensation law.

With the obvious increase in the rate of people with food allergies, regulators made changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act in the past several years. Employees with severe, life-threatening reactions to foods should inform their employer about their medical condition. If there is a reasonable measure that the employer can take to protect its worker, he or she is expected to do so. 

Allergy accommodations might mean prohibiting certain foods from the office or specific shared areas. The worker with the allergy could be allowed to eat lunch at home or at his desk. Basically, if there is a way that is reasonable in terms of effort and cost to protect a worker from a food allergy incident, businesses can be required to provide that help.

The idea of an employer taking extra measures to help a worker, however, brings up anxiety regarding workplace discrimination, retaliation or wrongful termination. A worker who needs and therefore asks for special food allergy accommodations might worry that seeking special treatment could result in an annoyed employer.

Requesting reasonable accommodations for a health condition is a worker’s right. It is also his or her right to do so without becoming the victim of a hostile work environment or wrongful termination. If you believe you were targeted by your employer because of a disability or perceived disability, an employment lawyer can evaluate your case. 

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