Peanut allergies in the workplace: how to cope
Only those who have peanut allergies really seem to realize how many things can and often do have peanuts in them.
Most of our public schools have adapted to this most common of food allergies and are serving peanut-free cuisine and buildings. But when we leave school, we're on our own.
About 1 percent of Americans suffer from peanut allergies, but the numbers are growing as more and more children are found to have allergies and fewer of them are outgrowing them.
Food Allergy Sufferers Empowered to Fight Discrimination
Recent court findings have put food allergies into a new realm for sufferers, allowing easier litigation should workplace harassment or mismanagement occur. Now recognized as a disability, food allergies can be the subject of lawsuits for discrimination, empowering some sufferers with the ability to fight back should they be discriminated against because of their allergy.
This change came in 2008 thanks to an expansion of the Americans with Disabilities Act which broadened the term "disability" to include "hidden disabilities" and conditions that are capable of disrupting a major life activity (breathing, eating, sitting, and normal cell growth). That includes food allergies.
Employers Required to Provide Reasonable Accommodations
The amendment also removed the ability for employers to ignore disabilities if they can be mitigated through medication or treatment, which makes it harder for the employer to claim that things like allergies are not disabling because they only occur in specific circumstances.
Employers are now required to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with food allergies. As with other disabilities, however, if the employee is not clear about them from the beginning (most recommend doing this in writing, including a doctor's note to explain), employers often have a way out should the allergy sufferer sue.
For more information, visit the American Academy of Asthma and Allergy Immunology website.