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What should we do about employee’s bright solution to seasonal affective disorder

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Q. With the change in the seasons, an employee who claims to suffer from seasonal affective disorder wants to put up a special lighting fixture by her desk that she says will provide natural-spectrum light. Some employees complained last year when she put up this light that it was bothersome and distracting to them. Do we have to let the employee use the light? What do we tell other employees?

Given the expanding definition of a “disability” under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, you should let the employee put up her light. You can and should engage in a conversation with her about her plans for using the light and come to a mutually acceptable arrangement.

If you are concerned that her approach is too disruptive or otherwise infeasible, seek professional guidance on how to resolve the matter. This guidance often comes from legal counsel and a doctor with experience treating the disorder.

As part of your discussion with your employee, you could raise the desire to be respectful of other employees and explore the least disruptive setup possible. You may consider discussing whether she has had conversations with her co-workers about the light and her condition. Aside from those efforts, do not discuss the reasons for the accommodation with other employees. 

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