After living with major allergies and the painful eczema caused by them, I've had to make modifications to my work area (desk in a cubicle). It's imperative that I did so or else my skin would be one oozy mess all the time (see here). Skin in that type of condition can lead to serious infection... and I'm just not willing to do that. Neither should you!
Two of my employers have paid for various things to help keep me in a safe environment in which I can focus on my work and do a good job:
- glass to cover my desk (because of my propylene glycol and polyester allergies - read more about that here)
- new handles for my desk or they paint them (nickel allergy)
- vinyl coated paperclips / binder clips (nickel allergy)
Also, when there's a work function that involves food, I'm usually asked if there's anything specific I'd like to eat. My lactose intolerance and allergies to chemicals (which end up being used as food preservatives) usually make it impossible for me to eat what everybody else is eating.
I'm one of the lucky people... not everybody has had such a positive experience with allergies in the workplace.
In the past when I posted on my Facebook page about my employer covering my desk in glass, I got a couple comments from people remarking how lucky I was because their employers pretty much didn't give a flip about their allergies.
I'd like to give their employers a piece of my mind because that is NOT OK. You want people to bust their ass for you, but you won't allow them to feel comfortable while doing so? Sorry not sorry... you're an asshole. For most of us who toil away at our jobs every week, we know the reality of dedicating the bulk of our hours to the job site and with our coworkers. If those things are going to be such a huge part of our lives, allowing us to do so while being comfortable (and able to focus) is the RIGHT THING TO DO... not only on a very important moral level but on a business level! Happier people = higher production rate and all that other good stuff.
For all of the employers who con't care about people's allergies:
Do everybody a favor and START GIVING A CRAP.
And for my fellow hard workers with severe allergies (you rock!), here's some info. The Americans with Disabilities Act will help you out when you're ready to speak with your employer or HR department about your needs. I've pulled the information below directly from the act (which you can find here) which explains what the ADA is, what qualifies as a disability and what the ADA can do for you.
An overview of the ADA:
"The landmark Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA" or "the Act"), enacted on July 26, 1990, provides comprehensive civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, public accommodations, State and local government services, and telecommunications."
Their definition of "disability":
"The term "disability" means, with respect to an individual -
(A) A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual;
(B) A record of such an impairment; or
(C) Being regarded as having such an impairment.
If an individual meets any one of these three tests, he or she is considered to be an individual with a disability for purposes of coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act."
What the law requires:
"Section 35.150 requires that each service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity, when viewed in its entirety, be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. The regulation makes clear, however, that a public entity is not required to make each of its existing facilities accessible."
And if you're like me and are severely allergic to certain things, it's not USABLE if WE CAN'T TOUCH IT. It's that simple. If you're in this same situation, it's your employer's responsibility to provide some sort of workaround for you... and they're not allowed to fire you for it either! That's also part of the act.
I thank my lucky stars for the ADA because it means that I can have a bright future when it comes to the j-o-b. My allergies and eczema won't keep me down!