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How should I handle questions about disabilities on job applications?

By AllergicTeen2 on Tue, 07-12-16, 18:01

I am 18 years old and applying for my first job as a dishwasher at the dining hall of the university that I will be attending this fall. I have a severe peanut allergy, but it is not as severe as to be airborne. A question on the job application asked if I had any disabilities; the responses were "yes", "no", or "do not wish to respond". It did not allow for specification of what the disability is.

The job application claimed that my response would not hurt me in any way. How should I have responded to this question?

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By PeanutAllergy.com on Sat, 07-16-16, 23:33

Question of the Week: Answered!

Every week, PeanutAllergy.com answers one of the questions posted in our community.

Our Answer:

Thank you for your question, and kudos to you for the job hunt. (As much as adults complain about work and the rat race, applying for your first job is an exciting milestone in a young person’s life.) As more and more young people like yourself join the workforce, food allergies will become more and more of a concerning factor for employers. We’ve even seen questions like yours on the rise!

As for your question about disabilities, it is important to remember that a food allergy is considered a disability - meaning that your rights are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

So, what does this mean exactly? Well, among other things, “People with food or other allergies have a right to request changes in the workplace environment if there are conditions that disadvantage or exclude them.” More importantly, “Firms cannot refuse to hire someone based on potential workplace adjustments, the insurance needs of the job seeker, or of their family members.” You mentioned that your job application claimed your response would not hurt you; under the ADA, that is exactly right!

For your own safety, it would be best to mark “yes” to indicate your peanut allergy - especially since you are looking to work in a dining hall! You may not have airborne allergic reactions, but if you’re working in a kitchen it is fairly likely you will need some accommodations. Whether it is a special schedule (so you don’t work on days peanuts will be served), a specific peanut-free station for you to work in, or even the purchase of extra gloves for you, your employer will have to take your allergy into consideration to ensure the dining hall runs smoothly and you remain safe. (And remember, it is your right to ask for these accommodations.
We hope this information is helpful. Take care, and good luck with the job hunt!

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