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Food Allergy Accommodations in the Workplace

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With all of the attention paid to food allergy accommodations in schools, it's easy to forget that children with food allergies frequently have allergies well into adulthood.

Although only about 4 percent of adults currently suffer from food allergies, skyrocketing childhood food allergy rates are expected to translate to a rise in food allergies among adults. This has led to increasing attention on food allergy accommodations in the workplace.

The Law

Under current federal law, food allergies are considered a disability. Previously, food allergies were not considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, though in recent years the definition of disability has expanded, and severe food allergies now fall into this category. If you have an allergy capable of causing a life-threatening reaction, you may be entitled to workplace accommodations under the ADA.

Under the law, an employee who has been diagnosed with a food allergy is entitled to "reasonable accommodation" that would enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Most employers do not currently have procedures or policies in place for managing such accommodations, though this is expected to change in the coming years as more adults enter the workplace with allergies.

"Reasonable Accommodations"

What constitutes "reasonable accommodations" for an employee with a food allergy? This is not yet clear. It could include prohibiting other employees from bringing specific foods to work, restricting areas where such foods can be consumed, or allowing employees with allergies to eat at their desks to avoid being around coworkers who are eating potentially allergenic foods. Employers may also wish to have an emergency plan in place in case an allergic reaction occurs at work.

Does your workplace provide any food allergy accommodations?

Source: Human Resource Executive Online

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