What is an Allergy?

An individual who suffers from allergies experiences a hypersensitivity to common entities that most people do not react to. Common allergies include dust, pollen, pets, and certain foods. When an allergy sufferer encounters these entities, he or she often reacts with sneezing, wheezing, itching, irritated eyes, rashes, and perhaps even an inability to breath. At worst, an allergy can cause an individual to go into shock or even to die.

On some level, over 50 million Americans suffer from allergies, but most sufferers can control their allergies with little or no medical care. Some allergy sufferers, however, face much more serious allergies. Serious allergies are often diagnosed through "skin testing," which involves a series of pricks to the sufferer's skin. Once their allergies are determined, these individuals are required to get weekly allergy shots, and some are forced to carry an emergency shot with them at all times. Individuals who suffer from allergies to this extent are potentially limited in their ability to work, attend school, and participate in a variety of activities.

Ways in Which You Might be Discriminated Against Because of Allergies
  • Your employer does not allow you to miss work for medical appointments
  • Your employer does not accommodate your need to take a reasonable amount of time off of work
  • Your employer will not provide reasonable on-site accommodations for your disability
  • Your employer might not allow you to leave work to receive your allergy shots
How the Law Protects You if You Have Allergies

To state a cause of action for disability discrimination, an employee must be disabled, regarded as disabled, or have a record of being disabled. The employee must then show that:

  • His or her disability results in physical limitations
  • That he or she can still perform the essential functions of the job (with or without reasonable accommodations)
  • That the employer took some adverse action (such as not hiring, firing, or demoting the employee) on the basis of that disability

According to both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), an employer may not take any adverse action against an employee because of the employee's disability. An adverse employment action would include discriminatory hiring, firing, or lack of accommodation. Having allergies can be a disability, deserving of protection from discrimination, as long as the allergies limit the individual's ability to work. The employer also has an obligation to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee with allergies so as to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. The law will protect an employee whose employer does not provide these necessary accommodations. For example, an employee might be limited because she needs to leave work once a week to receive an allergy shot. This would be a limitation in her work. An employer is required to allow an employee to miss work

Further Information