Your company occasionally brings in food for a breakfast or lunch meeting (pizza, bagels, sandwiches, etc.). One of your employees has now come to you and has advised that the food choices offered present a problem as the employee has a food allergy which prohibits him from eating the food that you have been offering. A request has been made by this employee for a dietary accommodation. What do you do? While many employers may grant such a request out of a sense of propriety, do you have a legal obligation to do so?
Recently the federal Department of Justice settled a case with a university in Massachusetts and the basis for the action was the argument that a “food allergy” constitutes a protected disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). While this case involved the concept of “accessibility” under the ADA, its relevance to “reasonable accommodation” cases does not require a giant leap. You will be at risk if you tell your employee to “pound salt” in response to his request.
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