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When spices, dogs and employees don’t mix, what should we do?

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. An employee recently came to us with a unique request for a reasonable accommodation. She has a dangerous allergic reaction to paprika, and uses a service dog to warn her whenever the spice is nearby. We granted her request to bring her service dog to work. Subsequently, another employee complained that she is severely allergic to dogs. What should we do?

A. What you cannot do is treat one employee as if she is more important than the other, or favor one employee’s disability and accommodation.

So, for example, you cannot tell the spice-allergic employee she cannot bring her dog to work, nor can you terminate either employee. Instead, you have to work out some sort of balance between the accommodations needed.

The nature of your workplace, work space and the employees’ jobs will dictate this balance.

For example, if feasible, you could reassign one of the employees to work in a different part of the facility (with no resulting loss in pay, benefits or prestige). Or, you could assign the employees to work different shifts. Perhaps one of the employees could telecommute. There are options available to accommodate both employees.

The trick is to have an open dialogue with all affected parties to come to a reasonable conclusion, and to keep an open mind about what that reasonable conclusion might be.

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