Accommodating employees

29-Oct-2017 10:01

If the employer isn't prepared to accommodate a disabled employee in their business, they might not have the tools in place necessary to welcome and accommodate the disabled employee when such an illness occurs.As an accommodations specialist at Assurant Employee Benefits, a small to midsize business employee benefits expert, I've created some tips for working with employees who have disabling illnesses or injuries.By requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations, the ADA has had a positive effect on the placement of disabled individuals in the workforce, and has raised the consciousness of U. employers while reducing discrimination against the disabled.The language of the ADA, however, is not precise as to the "accommodations" that an employer is required to make for disabled persons during hiring and employment.Today it is even more imperative for employers to explore reasonable accommodations in light of the recent amendments to the ADA which have broadened the scope of what is considered a "disability," likely covering even more persons claiming chemical sensitivities to odors in the workplace.Examples of potentially effective accommodations could include, among other things: 1) separating the complaining employee from the co-worker with the offending perfume or other scent (provided that this is practical and does not amount to a de facto punishment of the allegedly disabled employee); 2) adopting a company policy prohibiting employees from wearing excessive amounts of perfume, cologne, or other scents that could trigger allergic reactions; or 3) installing an air filter in the complaining employee's work area.

The alternative can often involve expensive and unnecessary litigation.

Employers are encouraged to contact JAN to discuss specific situations in more detail.

For information on assistive technology and other accommodation ideas, visit JAN’s Searchable Online Accommodation Resource (SOAR) at

(Labor Letter, October 2010) Employers have a duty to reasonably accommodate requests by disabled employees for a modification of their job duties or the workplace environment in order for them to perform the essential functions of their position.

Failure to engage in such a process can be an expensive proposition for an employer – as the City of Detroit found out in Mc Bride v. The Sweet Smell Of Excess The City of Detroit recently settled a lawsuit brought by Susan Mc Bride, a city planner who had claimed that due to lifelong chemical sensitivities she was allergic to her co-worker's perfume, making it difficult for her to breathe.The Occupation and Industry Series is a starting point in the accommodation process and may not address every situation.

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