when does an employer need to make accommodations for a disability?

A reader writes:

What constitutes a disability for which an employer is required to make accommodations?

For example, I have fibromyalgia. Does that constitute a disability? I am very lucky in that my fibromyalgia is not severe. I don’t need a handicapped plate or anything. However, heat does trigger the pain. Could I require my employer to set the thermostat at a lower temperature (big open office, major thermostat war going on).

In addition, I have an issue with daytime sleepiness. My sleep specialist/neurologist has told me that a short afternoon nap would be beneficial for me. While I am not asking for a bed or even paid time for a nap, a “space” would be helpful.

I know that you probably can’t comment with any certainty on these questions, but it would be helpful to know if these things are even worth pursuing.

So, here’s the deal with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): It’s not a clear, black and white formula that tells you exactly what is and isn’t covered and what your employer does and doesn’t have to do in response.

With the exception of HIV, the ADA doesn’t list specific conditions that it covers (or doesn’t cover). Instead, it covers “physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities,​ such as seeing, hearing, speaking, walking or breathing.”

Whether or not you’re covered will depend on your specific symptoms; some people with fibromyalgia might meet the bar laid out by the law, and others might not.

Assuming for the sake of this post that your case would indeed be covered by the ADA, the next question is what kind of accommodations your employer would need to make. And here’s another tricky part: The law doesn’t require specific accommodations, and it doesn’t require that your employer grant the particular accommodation that you request — or even the one that your doctor requests. Rather, the law requires that your employer enter into an interactive process with you to determine if there are accommodations that aren’t an undue hardship on your company. Your company can propose a different solution than the one you propose, and the process might include a few different iterations of “I don’t think we can do X because of Y, but would Z work?” And if there are several possible accommodations, and one costs more or is more difficult to provide, the employer is allowed to choose the one that’s less expensive or easier to provide, as long as it’s effective.

For example, it might be that lowering the thermostat isn’t considered reasonable if it causes discomfort for others, but that moving you to a cooler area, providing a fan, or finding other ways to ensure that the temperature where you’re working doesn’t trigger your symptoms would be effective.

And actually, for what it’s worth, a good employer would be willing to work with you on that totally aside from the ADA, if you explain that the current temperature is aggravating your symptoms, and it should be a pretty straightforward thing to address.

The daytime nap request is probably less clear. “Would be beneficial for me” isn’t necessarily the same as “medically necessary,” so on that you might want to talk with a lawyer or other specialist first to figure out what, if anything, is reasonable to ask for. (A nap is going to be a harder sell in a lot of offices, so it’ll help to have a solid understanding of how that one intersects with the law.)

In fact, the entire law is nuanced enough that the best next step is probably to familiarize yourself with some of the huge number of resources out there so that you have a good grasp on how this all works. Here are some good places to start:

The ADA: Questions and Answers

Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Job Accommodation Network

{ 288 comments… read them below }

  1. KT*

    In my office, we have a worker who has a disability (not sure of specifics) who does require a nap in the midday.

    What they worked out was that she would come in slightly earlier (say 7:30 instead of 8), so that her lunch could be 1.5 hours.

    The office is open concept with no secluded spaces, so she uses her car for her nap. The office did pay for a backseat mattress (it fills the gap between the back seat and front seats, so it extends her comfy sleeping space, and it eliminates the bumps/discomfort of sleeping in a normal backseat. It was $70 on Amazon). But now she goes out to her car, where in addition to the car mattress she also has a pillow/blanket, takes an hour nap, then comes back in to eat and get back to work.

    Just an idea! I thought it was a creative solution.

    1. Bostonian*

      What climate do you live in? I could see this in an underground garage around here, with a warm blanket, but much of the year an open lot or even most above-ground garages would be either too hot or too cold.

      But good for your employer and coworker for figuring out a solution.

        1. Mabel*

          My friend and I were taking a nap in the car, and the car was running because we needed the air conditioning. At some point a woman knocked on the window and startled the cr*p out of both of us. She was worried that we might be dead (we were really tired). (In that case, knocking wouldn’t help!)

        2. OriginalEmma*

          We had a woman die last year in NJ from carbon monoxide poisoning because she was napping in her car (in between the FOUR part-time jobs she worked to survive). She had left her car running. Please come up with a better solution to your coworker’s sleep-related ADA accommodation, because running the car to keep cool or warm while asleep inside it is a recipe for death.

    2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      That’s a brilliant accommodation! If only all employers were as willing to engage – your employers sound really good on this.

    3. Ad Astra*

      If a nap is really important to the OP’s well being, I would think many offices could at least accommodate an extra-long lunch that she could use to nap. The mattress thing kind of sounds a bit above and beyond to me, but it’s awesome.

      1. Helka*

        The office where my mother worked had a quiet room with a daybed in it and lighting that could be dimmed down to almost nothing. Apparently it was a real godsend for some people.

        1. JL*

          We had a small multi-purpose quiet room with a simple bed, comfortable chair and soft light. People used to room for anything from a power nap to using a breast-pump for young mothers. The system worked well. At first, there was some worry about overcrowding, but the staff was really good about self regulating. This was for an office of about 120 people. It was a large storage area that was pervasively unused, so no one lost space or an office to make room for it. All in all, it was a win-win for everyone.

    4. Mimmy*

      I was actually going to suggest a modification in work hours.

      I never knew that kind of mattress existed – great idea!

      1. KT*

        I have since bought one for myself for those days when I get no sleep and feel like I’m going to crash–it’s a miracle

        1. Lindsay J*

          Yeah that thing is going on my Amazon wishlist. I have slept in the backseat of my car before when I was just too darn tired to drive home after a night shift. Now it will be more comfy.

    5. M-C*

      Very good solution indeed. I’d like to point out that recent studies confirm that an hour nap is really hitting the upper limit of what makes a nap a good thing – most people do better and feel more refreshed with 15-20mn, which would require no time accommodation at all. And naps don’t require a formal bed at all, so you don’t get tricked into thinking you’re in this sleep state for the long run, any comfortable chair with neck support will do. Even when I lie down at home I like to stay fully clothed and keep the radio on low, to signal that I’m just resting here. But on the whole I think that if you can convince the company to make nap space available you’ll have a lot of competition for it, as many people are happy to nap without any disability at all :-).

      As to temperature, I’m afraid that it’s highly unlikely that you can influence a whole open office with a disability argument. Maybe the times would lend themselves better to a climate-sparing and financial savings argument? However a personal fan can make a huge difference to your comfort. Let me recommend Vornado ones, which are incredibly efficient and very quiet, perfect for shared spaces, I’ve been very happy with mine.

      1. Anxa*

        I would think that you’d need to allot a longer amount of time to the nap, though. Or maybe it’s just me.

        If I want to take a 20 minute nap, I don’t know what to do. When do I set my alarm? I would only know when I’m expected to be back at work, not when I’m going to actually fall asleep. It typically takes me a few hours to fall asleep if I try to go to bed early, 20-40 minutes when I’m going to bed at my workable-but-not-ideal time if I’m really sleepy, and at least 10 minutes for a nap.

        So if I wanted to make sure I had enough time, I’d have to try to go earlier. And if I set my alarm for 3pm at 2pm thinking that I’d fall asleep at 240, but really passed out pretty fast that day, I’d have an hour nap.

        I’m just mentioning this because while I think it’s important to try to take shorter naps according to the recommendations, it’s probably not worth fretting over too much since it can be so hard to control when you fall asleep.

        1. Ad Astra*

          There are good smartphone apps that can help you time your naps strategically. Great for people who keep irregular hours and have to fit in short bursts of sleep frequently.

          1. Anxa*

            I don’t have a smartphone, so I’ll have to look up how those work. I wonder if there’s a computer version.

      2. straws*

        The 15-20 minute may not be applicable to someone with a medical disorder, however. An hour may be necessary for this person’s specific disorder. In this case though, OP say a “short nap”, which I would think is less than an hour anyway.

        1. TootsNYC*

          If someone -needs- a nap, they will probably fall asleep relatively soon; if they don’t, they probably didn’t need it. There might be things you’d want to do in terms of light and noise, and you might need to give yourself a few days to get the routine familiar enough that you can fall asleep easily–it’s a classic part of the sleep-training that goes with moving to a new home, visiting mom, buying a new pillow.

          I agree with you that it’s best to not fret too much about the length of the nap.

          Perhaps once a person has gotten used to the routine, she’ll be better able to gauge how long it’ll take to fall asleep, and be able to set an alarm for an optimum time. Heck, she may even find that she rises to wakefulness at an appropriate nap time.

          The thing to do is just get started, without anxiety (bcs that makes it hard to fall asleep), and gather info as you go

          1. Anonsie*

            If someone -needs- a nap, they will probably fall asleep relatively soon; if they don’t, they probably didn’t need it.

            I think you have a base misconception about this. Sleep disturbances don’t just either keep you awake or make you sleep; they can do either one intermittently, often in a very short period (like under an hour) so you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep when you want to.

              1. Anonsie*

                That’s a good point. I have issues like this and my sleep specialist suggested trying to get a nap accommodation, but I’m not interested in trying it because I wake up from naps the way two year olds do. So I agree with you for me specifically, naps seem like the wrong thing. But my specialist said a lot of people make it work and see some benefit, so I guess it’s pretty variable.

            1. fposte*

              But if you can’t fall asleep within an hour, the workplace isn’t likely to be able to accommodate you with naps. We’re talking about people who *can* be accommodated with naps.

              1. Anonsie*

                No, but I’m addressing the “you only need 15-20 minutes because if you need to sleep you should be able to fall asleep that fast” thing.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I knew someone who would borrow the office of whoever was out for lunch to take a 20-to-30-minute nap. She just slept on the floor.

        1. Mabel*

          I used to nap in a (locked) conference room at work during my lunch hour (I was more tired than hungry most of the time). I slept on the floor or just put my head down on the conference table. I learned the hard way that I needed to reserve the room, or someone might find the door locked and get someone to come unlock it so she can use it for a meeting. :( When she turned on the light and I looked up at her bleary-eyed, she did a quick about-face and went to find another conference room. I didn’t know her, and fortunately, I never saw her again in the office – I was so embarrassed.

        2. Not Myself Today*

          I’m wincing at this, but that’s because I know that our office carpets are vacuumed only upon request.

      4. Looby*

        Just want to agree with Straws here- I have a chronic medical condition that means I have near constant fatigue- I don’t get nap breaks at work but nap at weekends and after work a couple of times a week, anything less than an hour is not enough for me.
        I get that for healthy people 20-30 mins may be plenty but if you have chronic fatigue issues I can see that an hour would be necessary.

      5. Salyan*

        A formal bed may not be necessary for a nap, but whether or not a chair will do depends on the individual. I can nap just about anywhere, but I need to be completely horizontal in order to feel rested.

    6. Winter is Coming*

      I also have an autoimmune disorder, and it exhausts the hell out of me. On days when I am incapable of going for my lunchtime workout, I head to my car. I’ve been able to get what I needed within the allotted hour thankfully. Oddly enough the workout gives me the same amount of energy as the nap does, so the naps are reserved for really bad days.

    7. StillHealing*

      I recommend using a fan also. Some businesses do have places where people can lie done if needed. I don’t think mine does but I could go rest in my car in the parking garage if need be.

      I have fibromyalgia and a few other “disabilities”. I have a three speed fan in my office and use it year round. I also start my work day later than most other co-workers due to medications I take at bedtime. My employer has no issues granting accommodations.

  2. Wolfman's Brother*

    I am about to go through this with an employee at my office. She has an unspecified condition for which the medication makes it hard for her to wake up in the morning. In the past we have had an agreement with her where she would come in when she could and then work her 8 hours.
    The new administration doesn’t like this. They would like her to come in earlier (at least by 10 but they would like 9) and I need to speak with her to see if this is possible. She never asked for an accommodation under ADA, and if she did we would work with her on this.
    Her hours are getting more out of hand. She would come in at 10 and then 11 and now it’s usually noon. I’m not sure exactly how to begin the conversation, but her work has changed such that it is more helpful to the organization that she comes in earlier.

    1. Anon85*

      Going anon for this one.

      Having an issue waking up due to medication is one thing. Taking advantage of that (“her hours are getting more out of hand”) is another.

      I have an illness where my medication does make it incredibly difficult to wake up. If I was left unattended and uninterrupted, sleeping from 8pm to 2pm is a very real possibility. Because no workplace in the world would deal with that, no matter what the ADA says, I ended up getting prescribed a service dog. Among her tasks is waking me the heck up at the same time every day (usually by jumping on my chest and licking me until I get up).

      As a backup, I have an alarm clock that attaches to my bed. When it goes off, it literally shakes my bed like an earthquake.

      A previous employer had one of the employees who worked an early shift give me a wake up call. That was awful and embarrassing and I hated it (and often just didnt hear the phone)

      Point being is–I get it–but at some point, the employee has to be proactive about identifying solutions as well.

      1. sam*

        Definitely not an expert in this area of law, but I think a lot of people focus on the “accommodation” portion of “reasonable accommodation” and not so much on the “reasonable” half.

        I’m certainly sympathetic/empathetic and would want to accommodate someone to the extent possible, but at some point they still need to actually show up to work and do their jobs.

        Now, it obviously depends on the type of job – some jobs, working any 8 hours in a day may actually be fine, but for many jobs, even those that are not “customer” facing, being in the office at the same time as your colleagues is actually a big part of the job – Sure, you could get “8 hours” of work done at any time of the day, but it’s not the same qualitative work as being able to interact with co-workers. It can also seriously affect co-worker morale to have one employee show up hours late every day – this could get resolved with an explanation, but that gets into a thorny issue of having to disclose personal/medical information to people who don’t really need to know it.

        As I understand it, there’s no “reasonable accommodation” that would require an employer to allow an employee to (a) not do their jobs or (b) do a bad job.

        1. jamlady*

          I agree. I have a chronic illness that luckily doesn’t effect me daily, but when it does flair up, I’m useless. It’s common to job hop in my field until you reach a certain level so I’ve always gone to each new job with a list of things I’ve done with other employers and the pros and cons of each. They’re just usually happy I was honest about it and ready to work out solutions. I’ve only had a few employers who weren’t willing to accommodate (reasonably or not) and I made sure to never take contracts with them again. It still gets in the way sometimes (can’t be perfect), but I’ve always made sure to do my best with meeting my employer in the middle. It’s not always easy and I know people have it harder than I do, but if your employer is reasonable then they’ll be willing to work with you.

          1. the_scientist*

            I think a certain degree of proactiveness on the part of the person who needs accommodation can be really helpful too. When I was in grad school, I did some TAing and in one of my classes I had a student who was really, clearly struggling. I would have happily worked with her regardless of the accommodations she was/wasn’t entitled to (as it happened, she was entitled to a few different accommodations) but what made it difficult was that she waited until she was already substantially behind and really struggling to ask for help. It would have been much easier on everyone, and much less disruptive for her, if she’d reached out sooner. I know that it can be really hard to assemble the energy and willpower to do that, especially if one is dealing with something like depression. It also sucks that people in minority groups are frequently called upon to educate the majority. But people with chronic illnesses and disabilities are the experts when it comes to their personal limitations, health, and needs, whereas managers or HR departments may have little to no knowledge.

            1. Anon9999*

              This +1,000,000. I too have GA’d and seriously, this isn’t just for people with temporary or permanent disabilities. This is a life skill for everyone who runs up against an obstacle that interferes with his/her ability to complete something as expected: be up front and proactive by speaking to the powers that be as soon as you know there to be an issue and you are far more likely to receive sympathy/empathy, etc. in the process of working out a solution than waiting until the last minute/beyond the deadline. As all people in education (particularly higher ed) know, the stories of students after the assignment/exam/etc. become harder to believe no matter how legitimate it might sound just due to the sheer volume that seem to present themselves…

            2. Nobody Here By That Name*

              To be fair some people aren’t aware that their illness can have accommodations. Many people think accommodations are the obvious, visible things like wheelchair ramps or putting things in Braille. When I first got sick in college my primary symptoms were exhaustion and memory problems. I was lucky enough to have someone point out the office of Disability Services to me, and together with the people there we were able to figure out accommodations that would help. But if I’d been left on my own I would’ve assumed I needed to suck it up and deal.

              I don’t know if teachers can do this with students, but if this was one of my direct reports I might try being proactive on my end with suggestions. (Assuming she felt comfortable enough to disclose the need.)

              1. Tau*

                Or even if you know you’re entitled to accommodations, knowing what accommodations there actually are. I really wish disability services had something like, a list of common accommodations people with your disability have received in the past (maybe some do? Mine didn’t) so that you have some idea of what’s out there and don’t end up reinventing the wheel. If I’d known at the start of my PhD what services I could receive, things would have been very different, and I’d have been spared an accommodation with my disability advisor that went along the lines of:

                Me: Really, what would help me the most is getting help along the lines of X. Of course, I know that’s not possible because you only offer Y type of support, but I’ve been thinking for a while that it’d be so helpful…
                Disability Advisor: Oh, X? We can totally do X.
                Me: Wait, what?

                1. Ad Astra*

                  I was diagnosed with ADHD in high school and I really wish someone (a doctor? a teacher? a counselor?) had been proactive in suggesting some accommodations. Everyone seemed to be asking me “Well, what do you need?” but I needed someone to tell me what I could have.

                  I know now that I could have really benefited from reduced out-of-class work, and I could have improved my grades significantly with some more forgiving late policies. (I can think of more than one occasion where I failed an entire unit because I forgot to turn in my packet at the end of the day and got a zero even though I’d done all the work). But, as a kid, how was I supposed to know that I could essentially request to change a teacher’s classroom rules? It never would have occurred to me.

                2. OhNo*

                  That would be amazing, actually. I went off to college just a few months after I first became disabled, and I had literally no idea what I was getting into. Up until that point people had been telling me what kind of accommodations I might need. But the second I went to college I was just expected to just know exactly what I needed and advocate for myself.

                  Honestly, I wish more disability services people would make suggestions, or even just let people try things a trial basis. It wasn’t until grad school that I finally felt comfortable going to my professors and saying, “I don’t know if I need an accommodation for this or not – why don’t we try XYZ and see how it goes?”

                3. Nobody Here By That Name*

                  Yesssssssssssssssss. I have no idea what all the options are. Suggestions are an amazing help. Sometimes you can google for ideas, but individual workplaces can vary so much that the experience of others can’t always give the full picture.

                4. blackcat*

                  When I switched from a private high school to college teaching, one of the big differences for me as an instructor was the way accommodations were handled. It may have just been a function of the particular high school I was at, but I regularly was put *directly* in touch with a medical professional to hear about what would and would not work for the kid. In one case, I worked extensively with a kid’s psychologist, our school’s disability specialist, and the kid directly to experiment with accommodations until we found something that worked. Then the psychologist and I wrote up a document to be used by other teachers as a reference. Because of those experiences, I’ve got a HUGE bag of tricks for helping students with various disabilities. Are you dyslexic and struggling with calculus despite not struggling with math before? As it turns out, the various uses of “d” as a symbol are often particularly problematic for people with dyslexia. I’ve got a bunch of different approaches for dealing with this. I can help! But now as a college teacher, I’m not allowed to ask when I see the very patterns I was trained to recognize. I can offer the studying approaches without asking about underlying conditions, but sometimes that’s like throwing darts in a dark room. And sometimes very bright kids have been coping on their own with learning disabilities and hit a wall in college. I can see pretty telltale signs of learning disabilities and know that a student would tremendously benefit from seeking out disability services. And yet I’m not allowed to recommend they get tested. I am, however, allowed to send them to the tutoring center, where folks *are* allowed to recommend testing. However, most of the tutors in my STEM field are just junior/senior undergrad majors in the field–they have no training in how to identify particular issues (the tutors for writing are grad students who have this training, but how to cope with certain issues looks very different when writing a paper vs doing a problem set).

                  It’s so frustrating to feel like I *could* help, and yet I’m not allowed. There’s frustration all around :(

              2. Mando Diao*

                A major issue is that instructors generally aren’t allowed to initiate these conversations and flat-out ask students if they have disabilities. (caveat: I don’t know if this is the law, a policy that schools adopt on their own, or if it just “isn’t done.”) My sister was accommodated all through her school career, and my mom is a college instructor. Professors cannot come forward and ask students if they need accommodations, even if observations suggest they do. The student has to go to disability services on her own. After that, the prof will be informed of what accommodations are necessary, but probably will not be told exactly what disability the student has. It’s about protecting the student and not having professors “accuse” every struggling student with having a disability. Instructors can’t even say seemingly innocuous things like, “Your writing patterns indicate that English might not be your first language. Are there ways I can help you in this area?” If anyone is expecting a teacher to approach a student and offer help, that student (and her parents) needs to be made aware that laws and policies may not allow this.

                It’s especially difficult in higher education, since professors do not generally have formal training in education, much less special education. A professor may suspect that a student has a disability, but nothing can be said about it, and the professor doesn’t have experience with these types of students anyway. It’s a major gap in the system.

                1. Lindsay J*

                  And that’s really a shame.

                  I’m really eternally grateful for my professor who pulled me aside and told me she noticed I had been missing class a lot, and that when I was there I looked tired and run down and that I looked like I was always cold. She told me her sister had shown a lot of those same signs, and it had turned out to be a thyroid problem, and suggested that I get my thyroid levels checked if I hadn’t already.

                  I did, and sure enough they were pretty off the charts bad. Once I got medication I felt a lot better. And, untreated, my condition could have had some serious consequences so I’m glad it was caught earlier.

                2. Mando Diao*

                  It’s great that things worked out for you, but you could have sued the school for what she did (and won), and she could have lost her job.

                  It’s not “a shame” that instructors aren’t allowed to diagnose students from a distance. Sometimes people have to ask for what they need, and this is one of those instances.

            3. xarcady*

              As a TA, I had students who were deaf and required me to wear an amplifier, or needed an ASL interpreter. Two who had visual impairments–I just had to remember to read out loud what I wrote on the board.

              And one with a learning disability (I have no idea what it was) who told me that he couldn’t remember which author wrote which work, so it was unfair to have such questions on quizzes. I checked with the Office for Students with Disabilities and they told me to send him in–I didn’t have to change the tests, but they could help him with study strategies.

            4. Anonsie*

              Oh, I can tell you exactly why this is. When I first got accommodations set by my college as a student, they told me to talk to my professors at the very beginning of every semester. So I did… At first. What I found was that there was about a 50-50 chance that professor would ever have a relaxed exchange with me ever again after that conversation. So many of them got so hostile with me over it (and it wasn’t a major change, just that under some specific circumstances that happen maybe once a year I may need to miss several classes and I was exempted from attendance policies in that time) afterwards that after I think three or four semesters I stopped proactively saying anything to anyone.

              Folks would pepper in snippy comments about me (my favorite was the one who, for weeks after I told her, said “oh look who’s well enough to show up” sarcastically to the entire room every time I came to class, sometimes continuing to prod me for a while after as well). They’d be short and tense with me when I tried to talk to them and would shoo me away from office hours and junk like that. Never had such a problem before I disclosed, and once I stopped I never had it again except for the couple of garden variety jerks who were like that with everyone.

              I know I’ve jumped up on this soapbox a thousand times here before but there are a looot of reasons why people with disabilities don’t put it out there. People are really, really awful to us about it and we’ve learned to keep it close to the vest for self-preservation. It’s not that you should wait until it’s too late, like this student, or that you shouldn’t tell your workplace when you need something, just… When you see someone try to work it out this way, however unsuccessfully, there’s a really good reason for it. And actually, this way usually works out way better most of the time. Just sometimes it doesn’t, and then everyone wonders why you didn’t just come out with it up front. There’s reasons.

              1. Nobody Here By That Name*

                Yeah, sadly that was part of my experience too. Some teachers were nice, others figured I was slacking or making it up. By the time I hit senior year I learned to be gun shy.

                Also some illnesses come with a stigma. Even at my current job I’m glad that I’m “lucky” enough to have a physical illness that I can cite as the need for accommodations so that I never have to bring up my mental illness as well. Having worked here for years I know full well mental health issues won’t get any respect, and that in no way would that information be kept confidential.

              2. xarcady*

                When I was TAing, one of my students was slowly going blind. There didn’t seem to be any way to stop the progression. While I was willing to do what he needed–basically just repeating out loud anything I wrote on the board–he informed me that the professors he dealt with were less accommodating.

                One professor still used an overhead projector on a daily basis. He couldn’t read/see anything when she used it. He asked if he could take the transparencies and make copies of them so he could use a magnifying device to read them. No. The Office for Students with Disabilities asked if they could send someone to pick up the transparencies, bring them to the office, copy them and bring them back. No. The OSD then asked if the professor could copy them and the OSD would pay for the copies. No. The student finally arranged to pay a fellow student to copy the transparencies exactly every day, but I believe there were a few issues with the other student being absent/not getting all the material down.

                I know of another professor, pretty famous because a movie was based on him, who refused to wear an amplifier needed by a deaf student. And simply refused to show up for a class which had a blind student enrolled.

                I clearly gained a reputation with the OSD as being willing to work with students with disabilities, and since I taught Freshman English, I ended up seeing most of them in my classes. They were hard-working, pleasant and intelligent people. There was no reason I could see to put additional barriers in their way.

                And I have no words for the fellow TA who told me, “You shouldn’t have to teach people like that.” Lost every bit of respect I had for him in that moment.

                I have a nephew with physical disabilities, and it makes me sick to think he will be dealing with these issues his entire life.

                1. Anonsie*

                  Abso-freaking-lutely. Even when there is literally no effort, consequence, or any impact whatsoever on the professor/TA/lecturer/whoever, a huge proportion of them will then actively try to stop anyone else from assisting. They’ll help you less than they help out their regular students. It’s like putting a target on your back.

                  I had a project recently where we were talking to grade school students with hearing loss and their families. Of kids in our local school district, I have yet to find a single one who has been able to get all their teachers to let them sit in the front of the room consistently and/or wear a microphone for their amplification system. Every single one of them, every single year when they get new teachers, half of them will do it and half will get cranky and say it’s too much effort and refuse. Even when they’re part of our mandatory accommodation plans from the government, these being public schools, the teachers and administration shrug and go “ehhh not gonna.”

                  And then what? Nothing. Nothing happens and you just have studies everywhere in the US showing kids with hearing loss get worse grades and are more likely to fail or be held back a grade because everyone says “nah” to letting them sit up front or having to slip on a lanyard with a mic. Nationwide. “Screw em, they can do 8th grade again, I’m not changing my seating charts.”

            5. Labyrinth*

              As a person with a disability, I can tell you that most people actually DO want you to wait until you’re really struggling. I’m in my late twenties, and I’ve never, ever had anyone believe me that my disability will be a problem unless it LOOKS like a problem. I’m in college right now and have run into this issue several times with my professors. It’s far easier on me if I can get help when problems are just starting to show, ideally before that, but literally every time they want to save their energy and tell me to wait until there’s a real problem. People really do believe you’re exaggerating or catastrophising unless you’re in a huge, huge mess. Asking for accommodations early doesn’t come off as proactive to most people. They think you’re just being fussy, anxious or helpless. I can practically guarantee that your student has had similar experiences.

        2. BRR*

          Not only the reasonable part, there is an undue hardship part which involves being able to do the core parts of your job without causing an undue hardship on the business with your accommodation.

        3. Anxa*

          I think the additional challenge is that what’s reasonable to an employer and an employee aren’t going to be the same because you have different priorities. I think a lot of people fall into a gap where they either can’t get disability or don’t want to not work, because they are capable of producing, but they aren’t able to meet expectations of employers because of their disability. So it feels unreasonable to be expected to work to support yourself, but unable to do so. But a lot of accommodations would be unreasonable for an employer.

          1. F.*

            What’s reasonable for a large employer may be unreasonable for a small employer. I work for a small company (with a very small profit margin) in an old, 2-storey building with no elevator and no offices (only the construction lab & receptionist) on the ground floor. It would be a great economic hardship to require us to install an elevator or create an office on the ground floor. For a larger company, an elevator and ground floor office might already be available. Any modifications/accommodations would also be a much smaller percentage of the budget for a larger company.

            It all depends on the type of requested accommodation. We have had absolutely no trouble accommodating a number of requests that have been made over the years. I think most companies want to keep good employees and will do anything they reasonably can to accommodate their disabilities.

            1. fposte*

              Sounds like you might be small enough to be below the ADA threshold there; if so, it doesn’t matter.

                1. JessaB*

                  Stair chair? Those are way cheaper than elevators, or is that a big enough change to trigger the “you’re renovating you have to comply fully with ADA now,” issues? I know some buildings are kind of in a grandfathered grey area, but once they try to renovate something that triggers the “you gotta fix it now,” regulations.

            2. jamlady*

              The few contracts I had where it didn’t work out were all with really small companies. In the end, we all realized it wasn’t a good fit and that I probably wouldn’t work with them again in the future (but good wishes all around). However, I’m working for a teeny company right now that is the total opposite. I came in like hey, these things are usually the best solutions, and they were like okay, let’s do that and more yaaaay! Its hard to hunt for permanent long-term work with this kind of stuff in mind when you don’t want to bring up your disability, but I’m lucky enough that my community is small and I know plenty of people who’ve worked for companies prior. It’s not always perfect, but seriously having a reasonable boss/company and being able to openly discuss options makes it so much easier.

        4. snuck*

          And it’s reasonable to expect the employee to have some regularity in their hours, so that meetings etc can be planned. It’s reasonable to say “Whenever you can, but it must be before 10”.

          Some jobs it’s good to have a person stay late to handle late requests or overflow work – maybe accounts staff who can then do end of the day last minute requests, finish up end of day tasks like audits and ledger runs etc. There’s all manner of tasks it’d be nice to be able to do after the end of the day and if the person is skilled enough and reliable enough in their attendence then they can become very useful independent staff.

      2. Nobody Here By That Name*

        If you don’t mind my asking, how were you able to get a service dog for that sort of need? I’ve tried doing research but so far can only find things for seeing eye dogs, or places that say you have to work for years to get a dog trained for whatever assistance you specifically require. That you were able to get prescribed one makes me think that perhaps there’s another avenue I’m unaware of.

        (I am currently working with doctors to try to get my own medical issues better, but I do ponder this scenario on the odd chance they get worse.)

        1. fposte*

          Anon85 will obviously know more, but there are service dog groups that train for various things–Canine Companions for Independence, for instance, trains for dogs that assist people with mobility impairments (they just call them “service dogs,” which I think is confusing), which might be close to what you’re looking for. I think the key is to connect with the right training program.

          1. maggiethecat*

            Not sure if you are asking how to have a need for a service dog stated by a doctor or how to obtain a service dog (those can be very different paths). I had a doctor (would rather not specify which type, but there are several types that can) certify that I needed one. I then worked with a group to train my golden retriever who was 3 at the time. Obviously there are different programs and levels of need – I could not have trained him to be a seeing eye dog or like a drug sniffing dog myself. And I say that because of my limitations not his, he’s the smartest dog :)

            1. Nobody Here By That Name*

              I was thinking more about the process of obtaining one. From my research it seemed like if you had a need you potentially had to wait years for the dog to be trained, which leaves me wondering what you do in the meanwhile.

              1. fposte*

                Some programs may have waitlists, but the dogs themselves don’t take years to train. CCI’s pretty thorough and they train for 6-9 months once the dog comes back from puppy raising; then there’s a two-week on-site team training with the recipient.

                And while it may be different with dogs trained for less common needs, in general they match dog and recipient *after* the dog is trained; they don’t say “we’re earmarking Bruno the Golden for you” and then you have to wait until he goes through socialization and training. Instead, they look at the dogs ready to be placed and then match them up with the people who are eligible and waiting for a dog, with some individualized training happening after that. (All this flies out the window for programs where you’re getting your own dog trained, of course–I really don’t know how those work.)

        2. Anon85*

          A doctor can prescribe a service dog, in saying a service dog is needed due to such medical condition, but they can’t refer you to a reputable service dog trainer–that’s up to you. You need that letter from a doctor to get the dog from a reputable company AND to take the dog with you on planes, etc.

          There are many, MANY categories of service dogs besides seeing eye dogs. To put it allllll out there, I do have a fairly serious mental illness. I am treated and can function pretty well, but the drugs are pretty horrifying too, as is withdrawal. I was put on a waiting list for a psychiatric service dog (a category many people don’t know about!) with a reputable training institution several hours from me.

          (Psychiatric service dogs are becoming more common, especially as soldiers are returning with PTSD. You may try searching for one in your area)

          My pup is a lifesaver. My drugs make me functional, but make it impossible for me to wake up. I could sleep through 24 hours no problem. She knows generally what time I need to get up, but as soon as she hears my alarm, she knows its defcon 4 and I MUST get up. She will climb on me, lick my face, bark in my ear, and when that doesn’t work, will start smacking me with her paws.

          I have severe panic attacks (usually at night before sleep) and she knows to lay on my chest–for some reason, the weight helps the panic attack subside.

          She also knows that I need to take my medicine promptly at 9pm. If it’s 9pm and I haven’t taken my meds, she loses her head and will bark at me and herd me to the medicine cabinet until I take them.

          And her other godsend attribute–I usually am fine during the day on my own, but in tight crowds, I can panic and will literally sit on the floor and bawl if I’m surrounded by people. When it gets crowded and she can feel me start panicking, she positions herself in front of me and serves as a blockade to give me some breathing room.

          She’s a miracle and a godsend.

          1. Anon85*

            And yes, there are many, many categories of service dogs! A true service dog is trained to do at least 3 tasks to aid the person with the disability (By the way, the only question a store owner, landlord can ask you is if your service dog is for a disability, and if so, what his tasks are). There is no formal certification process, but it is recommended that they perform the 3 tasks as well as pass the Public Access Test and Canine Good Citizen test (most service dogs go above and beyond this minimum standard).

            There are psychiatric service dogs for various mental illneeses, deaf assistance dogs, seizure alert dogs, diabetic alert dogs, seeing eye dogs, mobility dogs, autism support dogs, etc.

          2. Nobody Here By That Name*

            Thank you for the info, and for sharing your experience. It’s amazing what service dogs can offer now. As I say, I’m not there yet but if I don’t get better I could be, so I appreciate the avenue for further research.

          3. Noah*

            To clarify, the Air Carrier Access Act generally does not allow airlines to ask for documentation of service animals unless the animal is an emotional support animal. The airline can ask the passenger to describe what the animal does for them or how the animal assists them.

            1. Anon85*

              Interesting. I’ve always been asked to provide her documentation (my doctor’s recommendation) in addition to her health records when I fly. That may be because she isnt a “typical” service dog breed

          4. snuck*

            We’re in the process of getting a service dog for my four year old with Autism. Technically I will be the handler, and these rules etc relate to Western Australia….

            The difference between a companion animal and a service animal are specific – only the service animal can go to (almost) all places, the companion animal is only allowed places a pet is allowed. (The almost relates to quarantine areas, service dogs are no allowed in A class reserves and quarantine areas including surgery theatres, but are allowed in hospitals.)

            A service animal must be trained to a very specific standard PLUS have specific tasks that relate directly to the person they support’s disability (and those tasks should not be ones that a machine can perform for example – the alarm clock scenario – an alarm clock and shaking bed isn’t enough then a service dog could be). Then the dog must be registered with the state and given certification reviewed yearly – it’s not a quick easy process. Most service dogs go through about 18-24mths of training from puppy onwards – it’s not normal puppy school, it’s that plus all the good citizen dog stuff, plus exposure to all manner of amazing and wild and different situations, and if they handle all that with aplomb then they can go onto the specific dog training… many puppies wash out due to anxiety etc and this ups the time and cost for training service dogs.

            Our dog is expected to perform specific tasks – my son is a runner in public spaces so these tasks relate in part to that, and for his high anxiety and mental health issues there’s some tasks around comfort and self regulation tools. I am currently waiting for a suitable dog to become available and then I will finish out it’s training (with a trainer), but if I went through a program it would cost me $30,000 and 18mths wait as an alternative… and the dog would be flown in sight unseen from the eastern states because there’s no dog trainers for these sorts of dogs in WA. (Only seeing eye dogs and wheelchair assistance dogs – neither are suitable for my son/our family situation.)

            1. Anon85*

              That’s really interesting-service dogs arent registered or certified in the US-so we have lots of people passing off pets as service dogs.

              1. snuck*

                Each state in Australia has different rules and it can cause some confusion. Most states are similar to WA, but Victoria (VIC) has no specific laws for service animals, instead it has laws about all manner of animals and a provision for some animals to be be exempt under certain conditions. (Which is very different to saying ‘these are a disability tool’, it’s saying ‘we don’t like dogs in all these places so we won’t allow it, except *long list of weird exceptions that don’t really cover any scenario specifically*) This makes getting a service dog in VIC across the line harder.
                (I think they are working on this loophole issue, but it’s not completely on my radar given I’m in WA.)

                I think it’s a shame it’s so open to abuse (and the stories I hear through the various service dog industry spaces are appalling), I’m surprised there’s not more moves to legislate and manage it. It’s not discrimination to say you can’t take Fluffy and Fido into a cafe, it’s inclusive to say “These animals that are properly managed and trained and vaccinated and registered and clean” and building the reputation and acceptance of the animals. In Australia there’s a lot of respect for these dogs (and impossibly long wait lists for dogs that don’t make the grade through training or are retired, because they are so amazeballs even if they aren’t qualified, to get one as a pet is the holy grail of family pets).

                There’s a lot less service dogs in Australia – it’s a relatively new thing for all the other types of dogs than seeing eye dogs and wheelchair assistance dogs (and mini ponies have been excluded in Australia), but it’s getting out there. When we get our dog it will just have “Buddy Service Dog” on it’s blue (for mental health) cape, and the cape will be because I don’t want to forever have to explain to staff that my dog is legit. I don’t want to put Autism Service Dog on it because my son’s disability isn’t anyone else’s business. (And with a cape I can write on it “I’m working DO NOT DISTRACT”). There’s very few instances here of people lying and taking their pets places they shouldn’t, they might lie through their teeth if caught, but they can (and will) be immediately escorted from the grocery store without the right paperwork. A small teacup dog could be a service dog, and carried in a handbag, but it will still be non-distractable, self controlled, and passed all the minimum standards test.. (I’ll link in the next comment so it doesn’t hold this one up.)

                Other categories of dogs include mental health support dogs (similar to the Autism needs), medical dogs (seizure and blood sugar alert dogs etc), hearing dogs (alerting people to sounds and being followed etc)… all manner of disabilities can be helped, and animals can fill the gap between mechanical aids and a complete full time support aide.

      3. Elizabeth West*

        A bit off-topic, but I didn’t know those alarms existed! I know a couple of people who could benefit from them. Myself, I’d much rather be woken up by a doggie. I think the earthquake would freak me out a little.

    2. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor*

      I’m interested to see what others who are more well-versed with ADA would say about this situation. It seems to me that those hours would cause undue hardship on the employer, but I wouldn’t know where to begin on a solution.

      1. fposte*

        Most of the time this gets decided between the employer and employee without being externally tested, so you don’t know for sure whether a court would have found it to be undue hardship or not, but if you scroll down, Alison’s second link has a section discussing “undue hardship” in more detail.

    3. michelenyc*

      I am no doctor and I am in no way discounting her condition but I am wondering if it the time of day she is taking the medication could be having an affect on getting up in the morning. I have a medication that I take and there are times that I don’t because it is too late and I won’t be able to get up for work on time. I am fortunate that the medication isn’t a requirement for me to to live a normal life but maybe she should think about taking it a little earlier to see if that helps with her mornings.

      1. Graciosa*

        I was thinking this exactly!

        It sounds like a bit of a deteriorating cycle.

        Employee doesn’t get up until later, and therefore
        comes to work later, and therefore
        has to work later to get eight hours in, and therefore
        gets home later, and therefore
        takes the medicine later, and therefore
        gets up later.

        It sounds like this individual will need to be really diligent about sticking to a daily schedule, or the pattern is not going to change.

      2. Ghost Umbrella*

        I have a similar issue with my medications, but I can only take them so early if I want to be able to do things like make dinner or really do anything after work at all. I’m useless not long after I take them at night. Luckily, my work is pretty flexible about me coming in a little later. But if I have a medication change, or just a period when I’m handling the side effects less well, I usually wind up burning PTO in the mornings.

  3. Anita Newname*

    I recently went through this process with my employer. I had been working from home for two years under what they considered an “unofficial” accommodation request and they asked that I get an official one on the books. That involved going to my doctor and having her fill out a lengthy questionnaire. Then waiting for the HR rep who didn’t respond until after my leave time the day before I was due back in the office. Basically then I had a phone meeting with her and she said no. That was that. Instead I was offered a means to elevate my leg, a special parking spot, a desk closer to the door/bathroom (passed since I’m already pretty close), and a wheelchair (really passed since I do not need one, I can walk, it just hurts). So, I don’t know, I suppose the business is doing what they feel is the best for them while still being “accommodating” but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. I was doing it for 2 years without a problem, but now they want me to be in the office because it builds better relationships or some such. I went from being at home and not talking to anyone to being in the office and not talking to anyone.

    1. Mimmy*

      I’m surprised they had your doctor fill out a long questionnaire. The ADA was amended in 2008 and put into effect in 2009 (I think), which was supposed to eliminate having to prove the person has a disability, and focuses more on accommodations. I’m just now starting to understand the amendments, so I might be off base. Plus, what I learned was mainly in the context of higher education, not employment.

      1. Anita Newname*

        From what I read about it, all you NEED to do is request an accommodation from your manager and for them to approve it. You don’t need a doctor’s note. I already had that. But apparently for the whole business policy thing they want the questionnaire filled out so they can better understand what my needs are. I do get it, basically my manager at the time OK’d it and she really shouldn’t have because other employees were required to do the form and go through HR and I wasn’t. Two years and two managers later and new upper management, and they decided to change things.

        1. Erin*

          Ohhhhh. Okay.

          Maybe the new management is worried about the usual work-at-home stuff, namely, that you aren’t actually working. You shouldn’t have to prove yourself that you get your work done since you have a record of that speaking for itself with the former managers BUT maybe they just need a little more justification.

          I’ve heard of employers requesting remote workers to prove they’re paying for child care during the day (and aren’t just staying home with the kids/not working). Obviously I don’t know if that’s applicable for you, but maybe they need some kind of assurance like that to alleviate their concerns.

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          What would have happened if your doctor hadn’t been willing to fill out a long form? (Genuinely curious.)

          1. louise*

            I would assume the employer would have thought Anita Newname was making it up. Sounds like she has a good doctor who wants to do everything in their power to get their patient taken care of.

          2. Anonsie*

            Right? Your insurance just about never covers stuff like that, so unless you have a doctor who’s really accommodating or an office with a good plan for this– good luck.

          3. Jeanne*

            I’ve been through this stuff. Basically, you’re screwed. We have so few rights as disabled persons. You often have to jump through so many hoops, over and over, to get your rights that it eventually you give up. You don’t have the energy left to fight any more. There is no recourse. The doctor has demands, and the workplace, and the insurance and they’re all different.

        3. F.*

          In the second link that Alison provided (the EEOC website, Item 6), it states that they employer may require documentation from your doctor:

          “May an employer ask an individual for documentation when the individual requests reasonable accommodation?

          Yes. When the disability and/or the need for accommodation is not obvious, the employer may ask the individual for reasonable documentation about his/her disability and functional limitations. (27) The employer is entitled to know that the individual has a covered disability for which s/he needs a reasonable accommodation.”

          There is much more information at this site regarding this and all aspects of the ADA.

        4. fposte*

          An employer is *allowed* to ask for documentation including a doctor’s note, though. However, it’s quite possible that the paperwork you’re talking about is more than would be considered reasonable.

          And I think they’re asking for trouble by rescinding an approved accommodation, formal or otherwise. Unless they can state a reason why this arrangement was an undue hardship that was somehow suddenly discovered, it seems pretty likely to me that by accepting the arrangement for two years it was clear that it worked okay for them, and that the change is for policy reasons, which is not a legitimate reason.

          1. Anita Newname*

            That’s kind of what I was thinking, but I figured taking them to task over it basically means I’d be out of a job and I can’t afford a lawyer anyway.

            1. Jeanne*

              That’s the real problem. A lawyer costs a lot for a case that may or may not work out. If you lose, you probably lose your job. If you win, then you get treated badly at your job in a thousand ways.

              I’m sorry. I’m on permanent disability now but I know how much it sucks.

      2. YaH*

        Everything I’ve found says that an employer can request medical documentation of the disability as well as how it relates to a specific requested accommodation. You can’t require medical documentation in a public school system though.

    2. Erin*

      That sucks. I’m wondering if they knew ahead of time they didn’t want to accommodate your schedule anymore, and just kind of gave you the run around with your doctor and HR.

      Maybe you could bring it up at some point in the future if you can somehow prove this is no longer feasible for you. “Hey, I tried this out for X amount of time, and in that time my doctors appointments increased by Y (with doctor’s notes/receipts/whatever to back that up). I also think I’m more productive working from home because of Z. Do you think we could discuss going back to my remote working?”

      Or, maybe there’s a compromise with you working from home three days a week and going into the office for two, or only going into the office for staff meetings, or what have you.

      1. Graciosa*

        If your doctor is sympathetic, you may be able to enlist their help with the documentation for this. A well drafted letter from a medical professional could be very helpful. It may take some time and a number of iterations, but it’s worth pursuing.

        Also, don’t ever forget that there are low cost and no cost legal services available in most places. Lawyers are generally expected to do a certain amount of pro bono work, plus there are bar-sponsored foundations, legal clinics run by law schools, etc. Try online searches or contacting the bar association and local law schools.

        You don’t have anything to lose by asking.

    3. Ad Astra*

      Would your company be willing to compromise on this and let you work some days from home and others from the office? And would that be a suitable outcome for you?

    4. snuck*

      In the past I have requested medical forms filled out when staff have requested specialist equipment (which would fall under “accommodations” in my books – some special back chairs or monitors etc cost in excess of $800 each) so that I can be sure to get a) the right equipment, b) the equipment set up correctly by a specialist OT and c) make sure that we’re all on the same page about what can and can’t be done.

      While it’s not ‘nice’ to ask for this, and often staff have been affronted when asked for it, it’s proved to be invaluable. It’s not just about catching staff out lying about what they can and can’t do (although there’s been a LOT of that going on), it’s been about making sure that we are all working together to best support the needs. One staff member said she wasn’t allowed to walk around for example, but her medical team made it very VERY clear that she wasn’t to be sitting or standing sedentary for long periods and they expected her to get up and walk around every 20 minutes… we got her to do the fax machine and mail box clear outs etc… a short walk every 20mins she was refusing to do, but to not do it was going to set her recovery from a hip replacement back.

  4. Charityb*

    The nap thing might be tricky, ADA aside. While I’m a big proponent of daytime napping for health reasons, I can see how it would be difficult to accommodate in most office or retail settings. Quiet spaces are at a premium in a lot of environments; it can be difficult to find places like that for any reason, and even more difficult to convince someone to set aside a place for that when people are struggling to find space for things that are directly work-related such as meetings or conference calls.

    It might be easier to get an employer to agree to more *time* rather than asking for *space*, and handle “finding a place for a nap on your own”.

    1. Case of the Mondays*

      Just having the accommodation can help though so you don’t get fired for being asleep on the job. If she can nap at her desk despite the noise around her, great! But her boss likely needs to know why she is snoozing there. I work with someone who naps at his desk and no one cares. It does look a bit odd though.

  5. Erin*

    Thank you for posing this question. I too have a very mild case of a very serious disease. It’s a gray area, as is the whole ADA.

    I imagine your situation is the norm – that everyone’s body’s and needs are literally so different you have to take it on a case by case basis. You don’t fit neatly in the act, and other people probably don’t either.

    For the nap thing – if you have an hour lunch you could nap in your car and eat at your desk. I know people who do this and it isn’t too too weird.

    1. Mary (in PA)*

      Erin – I’m in the same boat as you. I have the absolute minimum criteria to be diagnosed with a seizure disorder and thus technically have a disability; even though I had only two seizures, they were most probably a result of my brain surgery, and they are well controlled with the smallest dose of anti-seizure medication. I really am struggling with the entire situation and especially with how it relates to my employment (which, at the moment, is sort of piecemeal).

      1. Anon for this*

        Keep in mind that the need for a reasonable accommodation may not stem directly from the medical impairment itself, but from the tangential effects of the impairment or from the treatment for the impairment. With a well-controlled seizure disorder this is especially likely. You may not need accommodations related to having seizures, but you may need accommodations related to side effects of your meds or other effects of your diagnosis – for example a schedule adjustment to align with the bus/train schedule if you aren’t allowed to drive until you’ve been seizure free for a certain period of time.

        1. fposte*

          Yes! This is something that I only recently learned, and I think I wasn’t alone in not knowing it. If the root cause is the disability, it’s covered.

  6. Ann O'Nemity*

    In my experience, employers are likely to be more accommodating – officially and unofficially – if the accommodation doesn’t have a large impact on the business or on other employees. It’s harder when the accommodation costs the employer money or causes hardship for other employees. The most difficult accommodation examples I’ve ever witnessed both involved cases where one person’s accommodation negatively affected coworkers.

      1. SL #2*

        The dog-friendly office? Although I don’t remember if that was because of allergies or if it was something else.

      2. Agile Phalanges*

        And THIS sort of thing is why it sucks to be caught up on my AAM reading after being behind for a month or two for the past 18 months. Now I can comment (yay!) but I have to wait for new posts, and now for things being teased. No fair! ;-)

  7. Valegro*

    You may also get into disability arguments if an accommodation affects the entire office such as reducing the thermostat. For someone with Raynaud’s syndrome lowering the temperature several degrees may make it difficult to type due to lack of blood flow to the hands. Whose disability/medical condition wins?

    1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

      I really dislike this “oh we can’t accommodate you in case somebody else has a disability and you have to fight it out” type mentality. One person having a disability doesn’t mean that somebody else with a disability has to lose out. There will be so many ways to accommodate both. How about a moderate temperature, one person with a fan, one with gloves/a hand warmer/a personal heater? It’s not about winning and losing.

      1. Anonymous Ninja*

        Ah yes, another: Just add layers and you’ll be fine! That doesn’t always work for all people, which was Valegro’s point.

        1. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          I’m sorry if I caused offence. I was just throwing out ideas to make the point that there can be ways of accommodating two people at once and it doesn’t need to descend into us v them.

      2. Amy*

        Lucky you if you can type with gloves on! If I worked at an office that was constantly freezing cold because of one person’s disability, when there could have been another way to accommodate it (give her a fan, a different working space, seat her farthest from the heating vents, whatever) I would be looking for another job ASAP. For those of us who get cold easily it’s not as simple as “wear lots of layers” — not to mention that it undermines those peoples’ ability to dress professionally, which can directly impact their careers.

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          Fingerless gloves are good for typing, for what it’s worth. (Used to work in a drafty old building with unreliable heat.) But I agree that an accommodation shouldn’t cause such an impact that coworkers need to wear gloves.

          1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

            I actually have a pair of heated fingerless gloves that plug into my computer’s USB ports. I got them when I worked in a poorly converted carriage house, but since I have continued problems with cold extremities, they have made an appearance every winter since!

            1. F.*

              Heated fingerless gloves!! Where were these the winter I worked in our unheated lobby because the CFO was too cheap to replace the broken heater?! Now I just need a heated nose warmer…;-)

          2. Nashira*

            They help, but if you get Raynaud’s, fingerless aren’t always sufficient if it’s very cold. My office dips below 60F sometimes in the winter because heat is, apparently, not something civil servants deserve. Best work around I’ve found are fingerless gloves (like Thinsulate) work beneath fingerless mittens I made that are longer than my hands. I can cuff them down for dexterity or roll them out for warmth.

            I need to make a new pair actually, that start around mid-forearm…

            1. Anonsie*

              Yeah, fingerless gloves don’t really help me because… You know, my fingers are the part that need to be warmed up. I have looked at those heated ones you plug into your computer’s USB but they’re so chunky– I have enough problems with dexterity without thick knit gloves with cords attached to them.

              1. AnotherAlison*

                You might check out the sharper image wireless rechargeable warming glove liners. . .if you’re rolling in cash or this is something worth spending a lot on for you ($149.99). It says they’re “micro thin”.

        2. The Artist Formally Known As UKAnon*

          I once rented a flat with no working heating, so I had to get used to typing with gloves on fairly quickly come winter – but I appreciate it isn’t as easy for everyone! When I said ‘moderate temperature’ I was thinking something mid-range between too hot/cold.

          (Although this is all moot anyway without OP knowing that anybody else would object)

        3. CA Admin*

          Your comfort and/or (perceived) ability to dress professionally are more important than someone’s disability? You really need some perspective.

          For context–I get cold super easily. I’m the one wearing a Marmot snow parka in San Francisco and carrying around Hot Hands. I also work in Finance, so dressing professionally is important, but the offices are kept freezing because we’re primarily staffed with men. You learn to deal. Is it annoying? Yes. Would I happily do it to help out someone who’s disabled? Absolutely.

          1. fposte*

            She didn’t say the office shouldn’t do it; she just said it would be a problem she couldn’t tolerate. She gets to not tolerate it.

          2. Amy*

            Yes, I would say that the comfort and ability to dress professionally for everyone else in the office (not just me) should take precedence over the company’s laziness/unwillingness to find a better solution. If someone needs the office to be uncomfortably cold in order to accommodate their disability, the company’s going to need to find a solution that doesn’t involve asking every single other person to keep their coat on all day. There are laws about buildings being heated for a reason!

          3. GOG11*

            For the record, I wouldn’t consider Raynaud’s to be about comfort. At what others would consider pretty mild temperatures, your fingers (and other extremities, actually) go numb, rendering them useless for tasks that require fine motor skills. And it can hurt quite a lot when the feeling returns.

            1. I'm a Little Teapot*

              And sometimes people end up having to have fingers or toes (or parts of them) amputated. Seriously. My aunt had to gave part of one of her toes removed.

              Also, keeping the entire office freezing cold for one person is going to cause a lot of resentment and probably subject her to a lot of nastiness from uncomfortable coworkers if they know it’s because of her. There are much better ways to deal with that (like, say, a private chilly office for that one person).

            2. CA Admin*

              The person I was responding to didn’t say she has Raynaud’s–she just gets cold easily.

              Raynaud’s is an entirely different ball game. Another disability that should definitely be accommodated. I would never claim otherwise.

              1. GOG11*

                Ah, my apologies, CA Admin. I mistraced the comment nesting and thought you were responding to Valegra’s comment.

      3. Doodle*

        It’s also a frustrating response because the likelihood of this is relatively low. If there is an open plan office with both the needs-it-hot-for-medical-reasons worker and the needs-it-cold-for-medical-reasons person, then yes, they will have to work it out (offices, perhaps). But in most circumstances, that won’t be the case, and it sounds like an excuse not to try to accommodate the OP.

        Unless the OP has someone with Raynaud’s or another similar syndrome in his/her office, this is close to a “some people can’t eat sandwiches” argument. It would be sad if the mere possibility of a “counter accommodation” meant that the OP couldn’t get what s/he needs at work.

        1. Anonsie*

          I don’t think the supposition is to deny it because “what if there is someone,” but the question of what if they do it and then it turns out there actually is someone else there who then has a problem. How do you reconcile two employees with polar opposite needs in the same open floor plan of small office? It’s possible, there are lots of solutions and ideally you could settle it in one meeting, but realistically it would become a big mess for the folks trying to set up the accommodations.

          That isn’t to say the employer shouldn’t do it. That’s me, as someone who requires accommodation, knowing that once something becomes this complex for an employer it more often than not just causes tension and some hostility to be aimed at the employees requesting it and rocking the boat. That’s also something to factor in.

          1. Doodle*

            Totally with you on the possibility of tension/hostility. I was just referring to the impulse to jump to the “but what if someone has the opposite?” response without actually assessing if that’s the case.

            Certainly, if someone actually *does* need the opposite accommodation (like the dog example below), it creates difficulties.

            1. Anonsie*


              I’m guessing people jumped to the “but some people can’t have it cold” because us coldies have brought up what an issue this is for us maaany many times in the comments here. And elsewhere, I think the discussion is usually on offices being too cold. So on hearing “I need it colder in the office,” I’m not surprised people would think that’s likely to be trouble.

          2. nm*

            I asked this back when the dog question came up, and no one really had an answer. I guess it’s something companies have to roll the dice on, that they wouldn’t get into that situation.

        2. snuck*

          There’s always that corner that gets too much/too little air con in it… there’s always the window seat that gets full morning sun and heats up… there’s almost always a seat that can accommodate the different needs. If the ceiling is the hung faux one that lets you put more/less light banks in you might be able to for minimal cost even put an extra air con duct right over a specific desk etc.

          Often people get too stuck on this person having to sit with others with like tasks etc… which screws with this stuff.

          And when you accommodate one person’s needs in a way that affects others you will run the risk of socially isolating that person, or having another person step up with a doctor’s note asking for the change to be reversed etc. I’m not saying don’t do it, but you need to think it through and possibly talk it through. Both parties – the person asking for considerations and the company employing that person need to move towards a middle ground. Some people can’t wear a cardigan in the office because of medical reasons, but if it’s just because they don’t like it then they aren’t really trying to work with the company to find an agreeable solution.

      4. Ad Astra*

        I suppose there are offices out there where two or more employees have disabilities that require conflicting accommodations; that would be a tough spot for everyone, and might end in a situation where everyone sort of gets by unhappily and uncomfortably until one or more of them finds a job somewhere else. Far from ideal.

        But we have no reason to assume that OP has a coworker with Raynaud’s Syndrome, so let’s not go all “SOME PEOPLE CAN’T HAVE SANDWICHES” on this issue. All reasonable suggestions are viable until someone (usually the OP) confirms that they’re not.

    2. xarcady*

      A friend of mine with a physical disability–she uses a power chair and has a service dog–works at an non-profit that aids people with disabilities. There are 3 other service dogs in her office.

      A new hire announced that she was afraid of dogs, to the degree that it was a phobia, and requested that the dogs not be allowed in the office.

      A compromise was reached where desks and offices were shuffled around, so that Phobia does not have to go near a dog to get to her desk. And the dogs don’t come to meetings where Phobia will be present. And clients who have service dogs are not assigned to Phobia.

      But Phobia still occasionally sees a dog entering or leaving the building, and pitches a hissy fit. But the organization will not and cannot disallow the service dogs. It would be like taking away someone’s eyes to force the guide dog to stay home. And while my friend doesn’t absolutely *need* her dog every day, he opens doors for her and turns lights on and off and picks things up if she drops them and helps out in many little ways throughout the day.

      The organization has taken the issue to lawyers, who have determined that seeing a dog entering or leaving the workplace is on a par with Phobia seeing a dog while driving a car or taking a walk, i.e. something that can and will happen in her everyday life, and does not rise to a level where they have to have a separate entrance/exit for the dogs. Which is good, because clients bring their service dogs to the office, and to would be interesting trying to explain why they would have to use a separate entrance.

      To say nothing of the irony that would arise if an organization that assists the disabled prohibited said disabled from bringing their service dogs into the building.

      So, yes, disabilities can clash, and both sides have to be willing to adjust to make things work.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, that’s really interesting–we’ve talked about this possibility hypothetically but I’ve never heard of a situation where it was being negotiated in real life. Thanks for the info.

        1. doreen*

          I’ve actually seen the situation a few times in the news regarding the combination of service animals and severe allergies to them (asthma attack causing allergies, not the sniffles). Although I’ve never seen how they end up- the lawsuit gets in the news, but the result ( dismissed or settled or a trial verdict) doesn’t seem to.

          1. snuck*

            I don’t know the legalities… but isn’t this a bit like the people who get anaphylaxis to touching something? (My son! and egg! He only has to touch a surface that’s had any product with egg in it including a biscuit and he can react.)

            You can’t control every element of every environment, so you carry epi pens. I can’t ask everyone in the shops to wash their hands before they touch products, I can’t ask the shops to make sure ALL egg containing products are out of reach of a child the height of a seven year old, I can’t stop the kids in his kindy class having treats in their lunchboxes (and can’t even do anything about the parents who have ignored the request not to send quiches and egg sandwiches to school).

            I can carry his epi pen and leave one at the school. I can control that. I don’t think I could sue the school if he went into anaphylaxis because some other kid had a slice of cake for lunch and used a sandpit toy my son then touched.

      2. UNKNOWN*

        I think a phobia of dogs and encountering service dogs is a special case in regards to phobias. A lot of people write off phobias as hissy fits because a lot of people don’t realize that it can sometimes be full-on panic attacks. I mean, I refuse to enter a room or building if I know there’s a snake in there. I refuse to watch any animal-related TV channels or read any magazines on the off chance I might encounter one. It it overreacting? Probably, but I also know that if I see one – even if it’s just taking a walk – it’s going to frighten me enough that there’s a chance I’ll have a panic attack and be useless for the rest of the day. The issue with phobias is that you know there’s a chance you’ll encounter your phobia in your everyday life, but you’re forced to deal with that fear of encountering it anyway.

        Should a service dog be denied in an office because someone has a phobia? No, of course not, especially since service dogs are there for a very important reason. If the new hire knew there was going to be dogs at the office when she interviewed, she probably shouldn’t have taken the job, but despite that, I don’t think it’s fair to mock someone’s phobia as a hissy fit because an extreme level of a phobia can negatively impact your day to day life.

        1. xarcady*

          I’m sorry, I did not mean to make light of phobias.

          The “hissy fit” comment comes directly from my friend. Apparently, the person with the phobia gets very upset whenever she sees a dog, and yells at the person with the service dog to get it away now!, sends emails to several higher-ups complaining that she saw a dog, and complains to everyone in earshot for days that she saw a dog. (It’s to the point where the people who have dogs call the receptionist to make sure the coast is clear before they leave or come back from lunch.)

          Added to which, a couple of the dogs interpret the yelling as an attack on their human, and start to growl at the person with the phobia, making things worse. This has been explained to her, but she still keeps yelling.

          If she quietly went to someone and said she had to go home for the rest of the day because DOGS!, no one would mind. It’s the yelling and the days of accusations that bother everyone else in the office.

          And yes, she definitely saw service dogs in the office while she was being interviewed, and yes, it was clear that some of the dogs belonged to staff and not just clients–she was taken around and introduced to several people, at least one of whom had a service dog.

          It’s a very good organization, I volunteer at many of their fund-raisers, and they are very accommodating. But they cannot guarantee a dog-free workplace.

          I’ve never met her, as she does not work at the fund-raisers, because of the large number of service dogs that tend to be there.

          1. Beezus*

            ….it really sounds to me like they’re going above and beyond “reasonable accommodation.” And I would expect that of an organization formed to serve people with disabilities, but I really don’t think it would be terrible or crazy to just conclude that her disability can’t be accommodated without undue disruption to the organization and its mission and send her on her way to pursue employment in one of the virtually limitless other occupations where she would be far, far less likely to encounter a service dog.

            I would have a hissy fit if I needed a service dog, and was visiting your organization as a client, and an employee yelled at me for having my service dog there.

            1. SL #2*

              One of my close friends has a service dog (a very large one!) and is an incredibly strong advocate for herself and others with disabilities. I can already hear her giving Phobia Employee a piece of her mind if she started yelling at her and her dog.

            2. snuck*

              I’d be complaining if she yelled at me as an employee about my dog.

              Service dogs are amazingly well trained dogs, there’s no place better for her to work on getting over her phobia!

              Now I read she knew about it before she joined, and it looks like a lot of her duties are tailored to meet her needs, and she’s still an angry yelling mess. Maybe it’s time to gently suggest she work somewhere less triggering and stressful for her … I know this doesn’t really fall under the Hostile Workplace rules (America) but if she’s abusing people for their service animals, or generally creating a tense and unpleasant workplace the the handlers of those animals can complain and possibly raise a discrimination case against her.

          2. Ankh-Morpork*

            Has she ever yelled at a client with a service dog? Because that would really be beyond the pale. I don’t think any amount of reasonable accommodation would allow for yelling at clients. Honestly, reasonable accommodation shouldn’t involve yelling at anyone, in the office, ever. I feel like in this situation it would be acceptable for her to leave any space that she feels threatened in – at a run if she has to – but not to force anyone else that has a legitimate reason to be there to leave. Especially with yelling.

            Also – her decision to get this job boggles my mind. Probably more than 95% of Jobs can offer a dog-free environment. If i interviewed somewhere and they mentioned that they kept spiders in one of the labs to create anti-venom or whatever i would be out. Done. Sorry – this job does not work for me. I would spend all day thinking the spiders had secretly broken out and were coming for me. Not worth the stress.

            1. sam*

              Yeah – this seems like a situation where the fundamental nature of the job is simply incompatible with her phobia, and no *reasonable* accommodation can be made.

              The organization’s specific mission is to assist people with disabilities – a population that, by it’s intrinsic nature is likely to avail itself of the services of service animals. Even without getting into the question of competing accommodations for different employees, the organization has done what it can to limit this person’s interaction with dogs, but it cannot eliminate them from the environment without fundamentally diminishing the nature of the services that it provides to its clients.

              And I’m not diminishing the person’s phobia – I had a friend growing up who had a deep-seated fear of dogs, and it’s nothing to laugh at – it stemmed from being horribly attacked by a dog as a young child. But I can’t imagine that she would ever, in a million years, go to work at an organization that regularly had dogs on the premises.

          3. Boop*

            Wait – she yells at clients and still has a job? Why skills does she have that make her so irreplaceable?

          4. UNKNOWN*

            See, if she knew there were dogs at the organization, it makes me wonder why she even took the job in the first place. I know sometimes people don’t think when they’re afraid and just start yelling (I’ll scream like I’m being attacked if I see a snake and it’s just gut instinct and something I’m horribly embarrassed about afterwards), but it sounds like she should just not be working somewhere with so many dogs. I’d be more on her side if it was just a normal pet-friendly office and she had a phobia, because people don’t need their pets with them, but a service dog is an entirely different matter. It’d be like me accepting a job at a zoo and then complaining about the zoo having a reptile house and demanding that they remove it on my account.

          5. OfficePrincess*

            Yikes. Phobia can certainly have some slack for a reaction in the midst of a panic attack, but blasting it to all of the higher ups, complaining for days, and generally making a (colloquially) hostile environment for those who do have dogs is pretty over the top behavior. It sounds like this isn’t the right workplace for Phobia.

          6. Elizabeth West*

            Okay, I’m sorry, and I’m probably going to get flamed for this, but that’s just stupid. I don’t want to make light of phobias either–for example, my 79-year-old dad absolutely cannot fly because of his claustrophobia. So if I moved to say, Europe, he could never visit me, not even under sedation. The amount of therapy required for him to get into a metal can and shoot through the air for eight hours over an ocean is too much at his age. If I wanted to get married (:P sigh) on a beach in Bermuda, he could not be there either. I would not expect him to; I could easily accommodate this situation by sending pictures, visiting him myself, and having my actual wedding in a place to which he can drive. I’m flexible. It’s cool.

            It sounds like the company has been flexible and cool also, and they have done the best they can for her, but she seems to think her issue is the most important one. This hypothetical line we’ve been discussing between accommodation and entitlement? I think Dog Lady has crossed it.

        2. Erin*

          I think it’s just this specific person she’s describing, I don’t think she’s making a comment on phobia-laden folks in general.

        3. snuck*

          “If the new hire knew there was going to be dogs at the office when she interviewed, she probably shouldn’t have taken the job,”

          This has me thinking… likewise about the person who wrote in about the dog friendly office.

          I wonder whether that’s fair or not. Coming into a new workplace and expecting accommodations due to your disability… if it was a person in a wheelchair and a ramp to get to the toilets or a different height desk was required people would shrug and be ok with it, but a phobia, a mental health issue… people seem to have a lot less tolerance for.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I kind of agree, but they’ve already accommodated her as best they can, and she’s still making a huge fuss about it. When does the responsibility for dealing with her condition pass to her?

      3. Jady*

        ” and to would be interesting trying to explain why they would have to use a separate entrance.”

        If there is a separate entrance, couldn’t Phobia use it instead? I would consider that much more reasonable than expecting dozens of other people to use it.

        If the issue is that Phobia can just see them coming/going from the main entrance, then it’s reasonable to expect that person to stay away from the main entrance entirely, especially if they’ve already been moved to an appropriate place and have access to a back entrance.

        It sounds to me like they’ve already been more than reasonable with that.

      4. Camellia*

        This is interesting. Perhaps a new job requirement should be added to the job description for this organization: Ability to be around all service animals.

        I said “all” because I’ve heard of other animals used as service animals but don’t know how common that is.

        1. simonthegrey*

          I had a friend at one time who was being evaluated for a service monkey, although his seizure disorder progressed and he ended up needing a dog instead.

          1. Anonsie*

            Good lord. Maybe this works out but all I can think of is the guy I met at a party once who brought his monkey and kept telling other people not to even consider getting a monkey because it’s like having a baby that never grows up.

            1. Anonsie*

              Wait wait.

              “How many service monkeys will there be?”
              “Just one at first, but he’ll train others.”

          2. fposte*

            There’s a great Miss Manners letter from somebody whose prospective wedding guest wanted to bring the service monkey they were training (note: not an active service animal, just being trained). The LW did not want a not-yet-trained monkey at the wedding.

            Miss Manners’ glorious response was to say to the monkey bringer that they were sorry to say no to Monkey, but if they said yes then they’d have to allow other, less well-behaved monkeys.

        2. Just Visiting*

          If service animals extend to emotional support animals, then any animal can be a service animal (even a snake). In my state if someone says their animal is a service animal you have to take their word for it.

          1. fposte*

            That’s federal. You can’t require proof. You can ask if it’s a service animal and what it’s trained to do. And you can eject if it’s behaving badly, which isn’t something people always realize.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I wish we could have a tag or something that is official, because so many people use this to sneak their pets in, and said pets are not always well-trained. The tag wouldn’t have to have the disability on it, but like a handicapped placard, when you see one, that means it’s official. If you can get a prescription for a service animal, like if your doctors recommended it, then they could also provide the tag.

          2. Anon85*

            That is incorrect. Emotional support animals are allowed in homes (even rentals with bans on certain breeds or animals) and on planes. They are not allowed in workplaces at all. They are not on the same level as service dogs, not even close, as emotional support animals are not required to have a minimum of training or perform any task; as such, they have none of the protections of service animals.

            In no state do you just have to take someone’s word for it that it is a service dog. The dog should be behaved, meaning quiet, unobtrustive. If it’s barking, jumping, in the way of people walking, etc, you are within your rights to ask the person to leave. A dog that does that is not a service dog.

            You are also allowed to ask what tasks the dog is trained to do. If they cannot answer that question, it is not a service dog.

            1. fposte*

              In *every* state, you are pretty much required to take somebody’s word for it that their dog is a service dog. There’s no other authority that you are allowed to consult.

              That doesn’t mean you have to put up with a badly behaving dog; you can require the dog be removed. But if the owner says it’s a service animal, the ADA doesn’t really give you leeway to say “Seriously?” (It also offers guidelines for service miniature horses, but otherwise pretty much limits itself to dogs. So you could have some wiggle room with a service monkey, I suppose.)

              1. Florida*

                This is true. Sadly, there is significant fraud in this area. If you have a dog that is reasonably well behaved, but is not a service dog, you can probably get away with it. It is against the law to lie about whether it’s a service dog, but there is no way for the business owner to prove you are lying because they can’t pry.

                You’re right, though, if the dog is jumping up on the table, you can make the dog to leave, even if it is a bona fide service dog.

              2. nm*

                I get more emotional support dogs than anything. I take their word on it, but sometimes I wonder. (And at the same time, if they need it, does it have to be official?) Thus far we haven’t had an issue, but it’s weird turning away well behaved dogs who are not a service animal, when their owners could just lie. How would I know?

                My dogs provide me with lots of support….. but then I bet we’d end up hiring someone allergic, and then where would I be? :-D

              3. snuck*

                In Western Australia the dog will have an ID card/registsration paper – doesn’t say what the disability is or even what type of service dog, but it has a photo of the dog, the name of the handler and the fact that it’s a registered service dog. The dog doesn’t have to wear a cape etc, but it must be controlled.

                Badly behaving doesn’t need to be yapping and barking and nipping others or weeing on the floor (all of those are atrocious behaviours that would see a service dog registration immediately yanked)… it can include sniffing food, sitting on chairs/furniture, whining (a sign of anxiety/stress, not good at all in a service dog), licking and scratching/unclean behaviours, any signs that the dog is anything but clean and well groomed (not a designer groom, but no fleas, stink etc)… all of these things indicate a dog that’s probably not a genuine trained service dog, or not on task at that time. Service dogs are trained to not do any of these things, and to all manner of small courtesies… tuck their tails under when they sit, tuck themselves under seats /out of the way when on public transport etc. If the dog is acting obnoxiously it’s not trained enough. Dogs in training need exposure to stuff, but it’s when and if appropriate and by permission – they are not yet certified, so cannot demand the same level of access, so it’s generally a polite request situation.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  I’ve never seen an actual service dog exhibit the behaviors you described, so yeah. I like the ID and maybe a tag, as I mentioned above, maybe orange or something so people can just glance at it and see, “Oh, this is a service doggie.” I guess some dogs aren’t comfortable in vests (and seeing-eye dogs have a very obvious harness anyway), but I always see them wearing collars, and a big round orange tag would work okay, I think.

                  And this could be accompanied by nationwide public education, like adverts or something–“See this tag on Fluffy? It shows he is a service animal. This means he is specially trained to help his owner, Sue, with a health condition. Fluffy is legally allowed in restaurants, stores, airplanes, and other public spaces.

                  “You should not pet Fluffy or talk to him when he is wearing his tag. He is working! Also, like many animals who love their owners, Fluffy is protective of Sue. Do not shout at her, or touch her without her permission. That might upset Fluffy. If you would like to talk to Sue about Fluffy when they are both at rest, just ask her! Remember–be polite and respectful, and respect their privacy. Fluffy and Sue both thank you!”

                  Before someone says, “But you can’t out someone’s health condition,” having a service animal is pretty much a huge sign that the person has something going on.

                  There was a very nice blind lady who used to come into the cafe where I worked. She had a golden retriever SE dog named Balzac. He was such a sweet dog. Of course we waited until she was seated and served, and asked permission to pet, and then he got a lot of attention! :)

                2. snuck*

                  Having a service animal has been part of outing my son’s condition. The decision to get such an animal means we will no longer be able to hide his condition… and it’s a price I’m willing to pay for the return of eight to ten years of improved quality of life.

                  Here in WA the dogs don’t need to wear a cape, but it makes it obvious if they are working and reduces the potential for complaints/angst.

      5. Bob, short for Kate*

        But but but…

        What the heck was someone with a dog phobia doing applying to work at a place with service dogs anyway?

      6. Ad Astra*

        Ooh, that’s interesting. And tough. I’m sympathetic to people with phobias, but I have to wonder if working at a business that deals specifically with disabilities was a wise choice for someone with a dog phobia. Maybe Phobia thought she’d be able to handle it better than she is? Or maybe this was the only job she could get at the time?

        Actually, now I’m wondering if businesses/agencies that advocate for people with a broad range of disabilities find themselves with these conflicts often. A higher-than-average population of disabled employees would mean an increased chance of conflicting needs, not to mention the potential for conflicting needs and accommodations among clients who come into the office. Hmm.

      7. Nom d' Pixel*

        I am terrified of heights. I literally shake and cry and can’t function at just a few feet off the ground. I would have to be desperate to take a job that required I climb ladders, and if I did, I would seek treatment to help me deal with it. I would expect my employer to provide reasonable safety gear, but ultimately it would be my responsibility to meet the job requirement of climbing the ladders.
        This sounds like the same thing. The woman with a dog phobia has a responsibility to get therapy or medication or whatever to help her deal with her phobia well enough to work. The reasonable accommodation has to come from both sides, and screaming at people is not reasonable.

        1. Florida*

          Actually, this might be a little different. Working with dogs is not an essential function of her job. If she were applying for a job as a dog groomer, yes that would be like you applying for a job climbing ladders. But since it’s not an essential function of her job, then the employer has to provide the accommodation.

          I do agree with you about give and take on both sides, and screaming is not a way to handle anything.

          1. Pixel*

            I would think anything that is included in the normal work environment, even if it’s not a direct part of your job, should be taking into consideration. An example off the top of my head – in my office, there is always coffee. My desk is close to the kitchenette and there is no way I can get through the day without smelling coffee. If the smell of coffee was unbearable to me, that would make my situation difficult as there is no reasonable way to ask my co-workers not to drink coffee.

            Another example – if I applied to work at the office of a hair salon, it would mean working in an environment with strong smells, even if I’m not a hairstylist myself. If being around kids is difficult to me, I wouldn’t work at a school office (even if I’m not a teacher). I find it hard to wrap my brain around accepting a job in an environment that doesn’t agree with me.

            1. Florida*

              I’m referring to how the law reads. I don’t know what you do for a living, but let’s say you are an accountant. Your tolerance for coffee smells has nothing to do with your ability to keep the books. If it were a disability, your office could move the coffee maker. That’s very reasonable.

              There is a difference between accepting a job in an environment where you have an aversion to the environment and needing a accommodation for a disability. For example, every office I’ve ever worked in had a big fancy copy machine that had a touch screen panel. Blind people can’t use touch screens. We had a blind woman at our office who couldn’t use the copier. Should she not be able to hold a job because she can’t use the copy machine that has a touch screen? Or should the office buy her a small personal copier that uses push buttons instead of a touch screen, or maybe appoint someone to help her make copies? Either of those makes more sense than telling someone they can’t work in any office environment with a copier because we all like the touch screens.

              P.S. I don’t mean to be adversarial, so I hope it’s not coming across that way. I’m just trying to explain the difference between not liking an environment because of personal preference as in your examples and not being to function in an environment because of a genuine disability.

          2. Nom d' Pixel*

            But she is working with people who require service dogs to deal with their disabilities. That makes working around dogs an essential function of her job.

      8. Florida*

        Your comment reminded me of a place I worked at the served people with disabilities. This place was the worst about providing accommodations. They would deliberately not invited relevant people to meetings because that would’ve required them to hire an ASL interpreter for the meeting. It was crazy. I think we had three deaf staff members. And this was a center for independent living that existed to served people with disabilities!

  8. Mimmy*

    Alison – This is an excellent summary of the ADA and employment accommodations. I agree that requesting accommodations should be a collaborative process. Key to this is that both sides (for lack of a better word) go in with an open mind. The Job Accommodation Network is an excellent resource with tons of information.

    OP – There are some good suggestions from both Alison and commenters alike. Be willing to have an open discussion with your employer. Don’t demand – when they talk about “undue hardship”, that means that employers are not required to provide accommodations that may be too expensive (relative to the budget) or would take too great an administrative effort (personnel, time).

    It is definitely a tricky law – I think the idea behind the ADA is for people with disabilities to be able to perform life activities – in this case, work – as effectively as those without a disability, without having to alter standards (job qualifications, performance standards). There are so many gray areas with this – it’s no wonder that employers and employees continue to struggle with ADA compliance 25 years after its passage.

    (Sorry, I’m a huge advocate for disability rights and equal opportunity, so I’ve been dying to write about this here on AAM!)

  9. Allison*

    I don’t know what you do, other than the fact that you work in an open office which doesn’t narrow it down. Does your job need to be done in the office? Would it be reasonable for you to request to work from home, explaining that you need a cool environment and an afternoon nap for medical reasons, and working from home is the best way to achieve this without disrupting anyone? If that’s not an option, what about working from home part time? At least then you’d be comfortable for a few days a week.

    1. Nom d' Pixel*

      Is it possible to keep a supply of ice packs at work? That way the rest of the office can be comfortable, but the OP can apply an ice pack to the back of the neck for example to stay cool.

  10. Blue Anne*

    A note for any UK readers: to qualify as “disabled” under the Equality Act you must have a “substantial, long term” issue. In practice this is interpreted as meaning that you’ve been diagnosed/receiving treatment for 12+ months, and if you were not receiving treatment it would interfere with daily tasks. You also qualify if you have HIV, MS or cancer, as soon as you’re diagnosed. Addictions do not count as disabilities.

    1. Blue Anne*

      Also, if your issue is completely under control with treatment, it is STILL COVERED. I’ve been on meds and therapy for 2+ years; my anxiety is still considered a disability because if I were taken off treatment, chances are it would once again interfere with my ability to, you know, interact with humans.

    2. Tau*

      I don’t know how binding tit is, but there’s guidance for the Equality Act which talks about the exact definitions of all the terms in detail and gives a lot of examples. (Available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/85010/disability-definition.pdf )

      It may just be me, but I feel as if people often assume the definition of disability is narrower than the law actually states. I did some reading up on this because I was job-hunting and the subject is pretty relevant for me, and it surprised me how often people would say that e.g. my stammer couldn’t qualify as a disability when it seems to be, if anything, clear-cut in the other direction.

    3. Anna*

      I just heard a piece on The Now Show from a couple of weeks ago about a recent update to the disability questionnaire and it was pretty intense. Even with MS, you have to be evaluated on how you can get in and out of a chair, etc. This is to receive benefits, but the guidelines sound pretty stringent.

      1. fposte*

        In the US, “disabled” for benefits is completely different from “disabled” under the ADA/for workplace purposes, just to add to the confusion.

        1. Tau*

          Same in the UK. The criteria for benefits are massively more stringent than for the Equality Act/workplace/anti-discrimination issues, and the two are really completely different things with completely different purposes.

          (Signed, disabled under EA, not going to be touching benefits applications unless I have absolutely no other choice.)

  11. Michaela T*

    Regarding WHERE to take a nap – we had a coworker experience a lengthy (noncontagious) illness where the opportunity to nap really helped her out. She was able to use the designated breastfeeding room for the purpose, there was a shared schedule used by the moms in the office to reserve times in there and she was just added to the schedule. Seemed to work out well, there’s a comfy chair in there, a lock on the door, and it’s quiet.

  12. Sof*

    So interesting about the temperature – I have some ADA-eligible health conditions that severely reduce my body’s ability to regulate temperature, so I’m often freezing when other people are comfortable, to the point where my fingers go numb and I can’t type anymore. I was just thinking of how ironic it would be if someone in your office had my conditions and how difficult it would be to accommodate both at once!

    1. Jady*

      Assuming you work at an office-type environment, using a personal space heater is something I see a lot of people doing pretty normally. Not people with disabilities – just generally people who are cold. Don’t know if you’ve considered that – just thought I would mention it. I think cheap ones on amazon run in the $30 range.

      1. Nashira*

        A lot of offices ban space heaters due to the potential fire hazard, unfortunately. I work in an office that gets very cold but where a heater wouldn’t be considered reasonable – it’s frustrating.

        This reminds me I need to order some new base layers though.

        1. BananaPants*

          A good EH&S manager should be able to arrange for approved space heaters for a medical reason. For example, an electric space heater may be acceptable if it’s UL-listed, has a tipover switch, and is plugged into a GFCI outlet.

          1. Mike C.*

            That’s exactly what I was thinking. We do that here – in fact some areas have special heaters provided by the employer.

          2. xarcady*

            There are space heaters and space heaters. Yes, some pose a fire hazard. But some are pretty safe–about as safe as using a toaster oven or microwave at work. It bothers me a bit that many employers give such a knee-jerk reaction to space heaters and ban them without doing research into how they have changed over the years. Those oil-filled space heaters that look like old-fashioned radiators are pretty darn safe, as long as you don’t drape layers of fabric over them and leave them on “high” for hours.

            That said, there are now small “outlet personal space heaters” that are slightly larger than a nightlight and can be plugged into any outlet. I’m just saying . . . .

          1. Boop*

            That’s what I use. Many throw size versions also have the auto shut off at only 3 hours for extra safety (you just turn it on again if you are still using it).

          2. AnotherAlison*

            I have a Sharper Image car seat heated cover/massaging chair pad that also plugs into a wall socket. It’s one of those weird gifts that we’ve never really used, but it sounds perfect for this type of situation. It’s black, so a little more inconspicuous than a blanket.

        2. Oryx*

          As someone who once burned out a socket at ExJob I can attest there is a danger with space heaters.

          To be fair, what I didn’t know was that when they set up all the millions of cords in my office, they plugged surged protectors into surge protectors which you’re not supposed to do. But it blew out on my 2nd to last day — I joked that it was my going away present to my manager, which he happily found amusing.

      2. Ad Astra*

        I’m normally not a fan of personal space heaters at the office: it uses a lot of energy, there’s a bit of a safety risk, and if it’s close to the thermostat it could be messing with the temperature of the whole room. But that would still be a very reasonable accommodation to someone with a condition like this, especially if changing the way you dress (gloves, scarves, warm socks) hasn’t worked. If you can, spring for the models that have extra safety features.

        It’s like letting dogs in restaurants:We’d really rather the general populace steered clear, but it’s not so dangerous that we can’t make exceptions for people who really need it.

      3. Sof*

        Our office’s official policy bans space heaters… but we have a few on hand anyway with the approval of my manager ;-) It’s actually much better in the winter because our office is outrageously cold in the summer and outrageously hot in the winter.

    2. Aceso Under Glass*

      This is one reason I hate open offices. If everyone had their own office they could set the temp where they wanted, with maybe some debate over conference rooms. Even a cubicle lets you use a space heater or a fan without affecting others. In an open office it’s either set in stone or negotiated between many people with very different goals, and one person’s gain inevitably comes at another’s expense. It puts companies and doctors in a position to judge whose condition and need is the realest, which sets up individuals to be resented by co-workers.

      1. Not Myself Today*

        Not necessarily.

        Our offices have dummy thermostats that have absolutely no impact on the temperature. Apparently this is not uncommon when offices were thrown up later – or the company decided that individual thermostats are messing up the overall HVAC or energy conservation plans and disconnected them from the system.

        Our real temperature control is by having facilities adjust the ceiling vents – by individual request based on whoever happens to be in the area of the vent.

        The fun part is that either limiting or increasing air flow from one vent impacts the air flow through all other vents in the system, prompting additional rounds of requests for adjustments.

        1. Kyrielle*

          They completely skipped giving our offices thermostats – we just have to contact facilities for changes. I switched offices and have gone from “comfy” to “just a bit chilly”, so I just placed a request. Hopefully I won’t be causing too much discomfort to anyone else around me by doing that!

        2. Pixel*

          At Partner’s former office, that was located in a state-of-the-art, award-winning Green Building, the vent ducts from the parking garage vented into the office space. They solved the issue by putting up signs asking drivers not to idle while parked.

  13. Anon the Great and Powerful*

    Cooling the whole office isn’t fair, and could be dangerous for some people, but maybe you could ask for an office where you could open your window and only freeze yourself. Also, working from home would probably be ideal if they’ll let you do it.

  14. Cheddar2.0*

    My mom had a request for accommodation last year that ended badly. It was very…surprising…how unwilling the employer was to try to find a compromise. She worked in a clothing store, and after 2 years, they decided to start selling seasonal perfumes too. The perfumes had leaky, open samples (unofficial samples in plastic bottles) all over, and my mom has severe scent-sensitivity so she started getting migraines and problems breathing. She offered to work in the back/store room exclusively, employer said no. She asked if they could get real, stoppered samples that wouldn’t leak everywhere, employer said no. She asked if they could put away the samples during her shifts, employer said no. They decided that changing anything about the perfumes would be an undue hardship to the company and laid her off. Afterwards, so many customers complained about the smell that they had to take down the samples anyways. My mom works in a hospital lab now and is much happier.

    1. fposte*

      To me, the only one in that list where I think the employer really blew it was on the back-room-only thing, and even that’s a maybe. Making sales samples unavailable to customers seems like an undue hardship, and samples are going to inherently mean perfume leaking no matter what they’re in. But I’m amused that the customers hated it, and I’m glad that your mom found a better job as a result

  15. Weasel007*

    I wanted to add my recent experience about “accommodations” (or rather my husband’s). My husband works in IT in a job that is required to be onsite for most tasks. Lots of printer repair and physical stuff. However, he has an eye disease that prevents him from driving in the dark. It is only a problem during the darkest quarter of the year, which is now (November through Feb) Since he can’t drive at dusk either, around this time of year he has to come in about 15 minutes late and leave about 45 minutes early. Also, when it is raining it gets darker sooner so that cuts in as well. That cuts him down to 35 hours a week for about 3 months, for a total of 60-80 hours (2 weeks max) out. He was chipping away at his vacation and PTO time every year and HR mentioned that he could apply for FMLA for an intermittent absence. He just went to the doctor, got the doctor to fill out the form and was approved in less than 2 weeks.

    Interestingly enough, I had emailed Allison when he was interviewing to ask when we should bring this up. When he was offered the position, he brought this up and it wasn’t an issue. The only issue for us is that when he is on call and has to be onsite to fix something that has brought down the plant. That could be at any time during the night, so I get up with him and drive him (has only happened once in 3 years).

    1. Chriama*

      I think if being on-call is a requirement of his job the company could also pay for a cab. That’s a pretty reasonable accommodation for something that happens infrequently, especially if they’re already accommodating him in other ways.

    2. Nom d' Pixel*

      That is great that his employer worked with him like that and let him know what his options were.

  16. NorCalHR*

    OP, be sure to check your state laws as well. California’s state law is (of course!) makes it much easier to be covered (the condition need only ‘limit’, not ‘substantially limit’ a life activity) and is very person-friendly in terms of what constitutes a ‘reasonable’ accommodation.

  17. NorCalHR*

    Sorry – should read “California’s state law is (of course!) different and makes it …” Looking for caffeine …. Monday typos strike again!

  18. F.*

    Alison, I want to thank you for this very timely topic! I have bookmarked the links you provided; lots of good information there. Next week, I will be attending my (first) Unemployment Compensation hearing for an employee who was laid off. He appears to be trying to claim that he could do his regular job, even though his temporary disability (lasting months, but not permanent) prevents him from doing so safely. He was released to light duty, but we have no light duty positions available for him. Even his regular duty position has now ended due to work on the contract being completed. We have no work available for him and are laying off other, non-disabled employees, as we (unfortunately) have to do every winter. The ironic thing is that we are not fighting his unemployment claim. He provided documentation to the UC that sabotaged his own claim!

  19. Aceso Under Glass*

    > Your company can propose a different solution than the one you propose, and the process might include a few different iterations of “I don’t think we can do X because of Y, but would Z work?”

    This isn’t universal. When I was applying for accommodations after surgery I was told HR would either approve them or put me on leave. Which would have been unpaid because disability insurance didn’t think my recovery should take that long. And this was a huge, rich corporation that regularly tops “best places to work” lists.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s possible that your case wasn’t covered the ADA; recovery from surgery often wouldn’t be, depending on the details of the underlying condition.

    2. Jeanne*

      Unfortunately, it’s a top-down company culture thing. I also worked at a best Place to Work large company. There were some good managers left over from a previous owner but as they retired or moved on things got worse. They treated employees as disposable and weren’t really open to accommodations.

      I think we as a culture need to push for companies to handle disabilities better.

      1. fposte*

        I also think Best Company to Work doesn’t mean they do everything great. It can be a great company for promoting from within and giving vacation time and providing pizza in the office and be a bad company for salary levels or maternity leave or disability.

      2. Pixel*

        The culture most definitely needs changing. The premise of employees who are always available and fit to work 40-45 hour weeks, with the occasional one-day cold or headache, is just not realistic. Every human being that has a pulse, even if they are at the peak of health, will have issues interfering with the sacred 40-45-hour work week. Someone upthread mentioned recovery from surgery – unless you’re Superman, you will need at least 3-4 weeks to recover from even a minor procedure. Humans, being human, will eventually come down with a bad sciatica or anxiety or unexplained fatigue or thyroid issues or crash their bikes or whatnot (and I’m not going near the entire operation of making new humans, which can occasionally be difficult on the body of the person incubating said new human, thus preventing them from being fully productive for 40-45 hours a week).

        Spending most of your waking hours at work, commuting to/from work and getting ready to work is taxing under the best of circumstances, and even a small decrease in your abilities – say, you’re slightly anaemic, not anything serious, you’re just tired as the bejeezus all the time, or your lower back or shoulder is bugging you and you’re not sleeping well – makes it even more difficult. We’re nowhere near “real” disability, just things any human being will experience at some point in their lives. Culture most definitely needs to change so employment would no longer be a binary “able” (and plugging in full work-weeks) or “disabled”, as there is so much in between.

  20. _ism_*

    Thanks for this. I’m starting to struggle with employment again due to my autism spectrum disorder. I haven’t completely accepted the diagnosis (I was diagnosed at age 30) and have no experience advocating for myself in a job.

    I finally told my boss about my autism 1 year into my employment and was soliciting her advice about whether to disclose it officially to the HR office. It’s a long story, but the short version of what happened is that my boss acted really sketchy and defensive, advised me NOT to disclose to HR, and said a lot of stuff about how she “always knew I was different,” she revealed that she had shared my disability with her boss in the corporate office (I’d asked her to keep it between us until I decided about official disclosure) and lastly, she made me feel guilty for not disclosing at the time I applied or accepted the job offer.

    I ended up quitting not long after these conversations with my boss because I didn’t feel safe disclosing officially to that company, and felt that they would not respond or listen to me if I tried to open up a conversation about the kinds of accomodations that could be worked out.

    What would you advise to someone who royally screwed up the last time she tried to bring up this type of disability to her boss? I got another job shortly after but they fired me after two weeks for being “too flustered” and “having red skin marks,” which were just the result of some newbie-jitters – symptoms of my disability that they were not aware of and I had though I could pass for normal :(

    1. J.B.*

      That is tough. I would actually think you might want to consult with an attorney just to find out more how the law would apply to you and how best to go about requesting accommodations in future situations, or what would be a good way to go about it. I know there was some previous post in the past about a manager with face blindness – maybe some of the comments would have advice? I am more familiar with pediatric occupational therapy, but my daughter’s OT works with her on social interactions and might also be one route you could pursue.

      The red skin issue sounds ludicrous, and I’m sorry it happened to you. I think you will always be in a grey area of working with supervisors, but at some point in the first situation you described, going to HR wouldn’t have hurt – it might not have helped but there was probably nothing to lose either.

    2. Jeanne*

      You didn’t screw up. Bad bosses are bad bosses. I would say next time to include HR in your discussion. Find a friend to practice with so you are ready to have the conversation. Practice explaining what help you need but also find a way to slip in some positive qualities that you will use to bring value. You’re kind of selling yourself all over again even though you got the job.

      The red marks is ridiculous. They needed an excuse.

  21. The OP here*

    Wow! Thank you everyone for your responses and suggestions and thank Alison for answering my question. By the way, I am a “he”. No offense taken if you called me a “she”. You have no way of knowing.

    I work at a University in a department where the graduates often are advocates for the disabled (sorry, no better way to describe it without naming it). I am basically a receptionist so I pretty much have to work 8:00 to 4:45. Working from home is not an option. My position is pretty much overseeing a computer lab (in addition to the receptionist duties) so my desk is in the computer lab. I might be able to get moved to an office or maybe have my desk moved closer to a window or something.

    I am lucky that a co-worker has allowed me to use her office (when she is not in it) for a nap. This often works out well but recently I was told that I could only take a “nap” during my lunch hour. I only require a 15-20 minute nap. The purpose of the nap is not so much sleep as it is just relaxing. This relaxing does help relieve tension which in turn helps relieve the fibromyalgia symptoms. A Varnado makes things worse surprisingly. The wind from the fan actually makes the fibromyalgia worse.

    Thanks again for everyone’s suggestions.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Have you looked at cooling seat cushions? These exist. I’m not typically hot, so I haven’t researched them, but it could be another option.

      (Also – glad you’ve gotten some solutions on the napping.)

      1. Ad Astra*

        Yes, and you might even look into those cooling towels that are out there. If you haven’t done this already, look around your desk to see if there are any vents near you that you can close.

        I also think keeping the office temperature on the low end of reasonable (say, 70 degrees) is worth requesting. I do sympathize with people who are always cold at the office, but they can put on a sweater or warm socks or even a scarf if they need to. Someone who’s feeling overheated obviously can’t strip down in the middle of the office. If 70ish (maybe as low as 68?) isn’t cool enough to meet your needs, you may need to figure something else out.

      2. cajun2core*

        One of my doctors told me about “cooling jackets”. I have looked into them a bit but not too much.
        I will also look into cooling seat cushions. Thanks for the suggestion.

      3. LizzyB*

        People with MS also need to be careful not to get overheated (or too cold), so the National MS Society’s web site has a lot of good info on ways to keep cool.

    2. Anonsie*

      You may already do this, but I highly recommend buying work clothes made of athletic materials. Depending on what you have to wear this may be easier or harder (it’s easy to find undergarments, tshirts, and polo shirts like this for cheap or at a discount; button-downs and pants are harder) but it makes a huuuge difference for me in regulating temperature. You want those fancy synthetics that fast dry and wick moisture, they will keep you cooler.

      I wear athletic tshirts as undershirts under my more work-appropriate tops, and I have a number of blouses and buttondowns that are also made of materials like that but look perfectly office appropriate. If you can wear a polo, there are tons of men’s shirts like this aimed at golfers. Many brands now make “cooling” athletic shirts and undergarments that really do work. I like Columbia and Under Armor in particular. I wear this stuff even in the winter when I know I’ll have to move around a lot so I don’t overheat in my otherwise warm clothes.

      All those brands can be pricey, so I tend to buy whatever is on clearance at sporting goods stores or discount outlets. For workwear that’s made of this stuff, I also try clearance from Eddie Bauer (their clearance & sales are very very good), Land’s End, and Ex Officio. You can often find Ex Officio at discount outlets as well. Good discount websites for this stuff: Altrec, BackCountry, 6pm, sometimes Moosejaw.

      1. cajun2core*

        Thanks for all of the suggestions. I had heard about cooling jackets but was having trouble finding some. Thanks for the leads.

        1. Anonsie*

          No problem! I get very cold when sedentary but very hot with activity (also due to my rheumatic disorder, thanks body) and this has helped immensely. I can dress warmly but never overheat. Those cooling fabrics really do work, too. I once wore one of my Columbia cooling tshirts under a camp shirt while fishing in the summer standing out in direct sunlight for hours and I think I may have broken a sweat at like 1pm. I didn’t even feel the need to take my camp shirt off to cool down. Eddie Bauer’s Travex clothes (normal looking clothes in performance fabrics) are the bomb, and they’re pretty affordable. On clearance they can be really cheap.

          I don’t have a ton of money to spend on this stuff so I’m always trying to sniff out the cheapest possible items. I will caution that 6pm often has the best deals but their returns process is annoying. You can return anything no problem, but you have to pay your own shipping so be careful with that. Altrec and BackCountry are really really good with returns in my experience.

          Hopefully something like that will help you, once I realized how much it helped me I stopped buying anything else for work. It might not solve the problem completely, but I’m sure you’ll at least be more comfortable than you are now!

              1. Jean*

                More than “actually helpful,” you’ve actually given me a light bulb moment: The athletic garments with moisture-wicking fabrics sound potentially very very helpful to those of us currently experiencing (enduring?) menopause. I may start checking out the end-of-season sales.
                Thank you!

                1. Anonsie*

                  Oh man, I’m glad I could help! It definitely felt like an epiphany when I first started doing it. “My god, why haven’t I been doing this all along?? How did I not think of it sooner?”

    3. Jeanne*

      The nap thing is tougher in a receptionist type position. They need you at your desk. But please advocate for yourself when you can. Your health is important.

      Fibromyalgia is much rarer in men isn’t it? That may be leading to some skepticism from your employer. Good luck.

      1. cajun2core*

        Yes, Fibromyalgia is uncommon but not unheard of in men.
        I think they would believe me so that is not much of a problem.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        It seems like it would be fine, if the nap is taken on the lunch hour. We had a coworker at Exjob who took a nap in his car every day at lunch. I’m not sure if it was a health issue or what. If I had had to do the same, it would not have been a problem, because I was away from the front desk on my lunch anyway.

  22. Sleepy*

    I have a sleep disorder related to narcolepsy, and in the past have had a reasonable accommodation that allowed me to nap twice a day during the day at work. It took some back and forth with my manager and HR to figure out a location and a schedule that would work for everyone. I still worked an 8-hour day, we just arranged for a longer lunch break and an extended afternoon break. They put a couch in an underused conference/storage room, gave me a permanent appointment for the agreed-upon times, and let me leave a bag in there with a pillow and a blanket. I set up a block on my calendar, and coworkers were mostly good about not scheduling me for meetings during the times I had blocked out. They did require documentation from my doctor. The documentation was careful to note that they did not require a diagnosis–just a description of which life activities were limited by the condition, and what accommodations were being requested. It was a pretty bureaucratic process of forms and paperwork, but in the end got me what I needed.

    All that said, I wish workplaces were more nap-friendly in general. I feel like just about everyone could benefit from a quick power nap, or just the opportunity to rest in a quiet space for a few minutes. I wish this were something that were built into our culture, not just a specific accommodation for medical issues.

    1. Pixel*

      Amen to that. We all have the occasional restless night or stuffy nose or cat producing a hairball on our duvet at 3AM, and can make it through the first half of the day but would be so much happier if the afternoon included a nap. I’m glad your office is so accommodating, sounds like a win-win situation.

  23. HRChick*

    I do have a question with regards to the ADA:
    We have an employee hired into a position that has the potential to be very stressful. The stress and other requirements are outlined in the job description and are emphasized during the hiring practice.
    This employee recently brought us a letter requesting accommodation with a note from her doctor saying she needed to be in a stress-free environment. We offered her a less-stress option, but she refused. Had to be no stress. That cannot be done in her position.
    Our lawyer said to try and figure it out – we did, can’t be done. Employees in that position need to be able to react a certain way in an emergency.
    Our lawyer asked if there were any open (or soon to be open) positions that this employee qualified for. We researched, but no. None.
    Our lawyer “strongly advised” us to CREATE a position for this employee to take.
    Is that at all reasonable? These aren’t positions we can leave open, so we’d basically be doubling the expense of that employee by having her fill a job we don’t need. I don’t think it’s reasonable and tried to argue against it, but our lawyer pretty much said we had to or we’d lose in court.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d get a second opinion from a different lawyer, and make sure it’s someone who specializes in employment law, employer side (not employee side). I’d think if nothing else offering a generous severance package in exchange for a signed release of future claims might end up working, but you’d want to have a lawyer guiding you.

      1. snuck*

        I’m curious (and in another country so the laws are probably different, but there’s enough similarity to cover this)…

        In this post there’s now two crystal clear examples of situations where an employee has gone into a job where they know they won’t be suitable for the role without probably unreasonable accommodations (‘no stress’ is a pretty tall order, and ‘no dogs’ when dogs seen prior to accepting the position).

        Is there a line that can be drawn saying “Look, we didn’t know about their disability, so we didn’t discriminate, but seriously? Come on… This person accepted knowing that X and Y were in place, and knew we couldn’t do P,Q or R to mitigate that… they had a responsibility to self select out of this too”…? Because seriously… where is there the line?

        I’m ultra sensitive to certain types of noise, I self select out of workplaces that have those noises… I can’t walk into a workplace, accept a job with those noises and demand everyone around me do things differently – surely?

    2. Graciosa*

      I definitely agree with getting a second opinion – however, I would also take a hard look at the structural assumptions your organization is making and really make every effort to find an accommodation if at all possible.

      For example, if your company was selling services of emergency medical personnel to fill in on ambulance services and emergency rooms when someone called in sick, it sounds like it’s impossible to create a no-stress position.

      But do all employees arrive with their own gear bags that need to be resupplied before every call out? Could you designate one position to just handle refilling the bags in a back office? If this is the equivalent of the “low stress” position, would a one time purchase of enough extra bags as buffer stock to avoid the need for urgent refills convert this from low stress to no stress?

      I understand your frustration at having been very clear about the job requirements (it sounds like the ability to cope with stress is an essential function of the job that the employee cannot perform even with accommodation) and then having the employee declare that they can’t meet them. However, even if an exhaustive effort gets you to the same conclusion, it won’t hurt your case later to be able to demonstrate how hard you tried.

      Do read up a bit about essential functions of the job, and definitely get a second opinion.

      1. HRChick*

        Well, we’ve been working closely with the department head on this and he doesn’t believe there is anything for her – nothing like stocking, etc. The couple of positions that might work for her are full and can be stressful themselves. So, we’d have to create another position we don’t need to keep her in the department anyways.

        We’re a comparatively small business (about 500 employees total) and have everything from house keepers to scientific researchers, but we also have pretty good retention and tend to fill jobs fast – so, there’s nothing open that we can shift her into.

        It’s just frustrating because for this position, they have an extra insert in their onboarding packet that says that this position requires being able to stand or walk for long period of time, being able to handle stress, being able to work in small spaces, being able to lift, drag, or carry people in an emergency, etc and the amount of times people in this position have come onboard and then handed us a note from their doctor saying they couldn’t walk or stand for long periods of time, couldn’t handle heavy weights, or couldn’t work in small spaces is obnoxious. We work really hard to accommodate people where we can, but we also feel like we can’t compromise the integrity of the position at the same time.

        This is the first “no stress” request and I’m having trouble thinking of a way to help her. Everything we’ve come back with to lessen the stress has been rejected. And I’m having trouble WANTING to help her when she clearly took this job knowing she couldn’t fulfill the requirements. And then I feel bad for feeling that way because it’s got to be tough being not able to function under stress. That really limits her advancement potential.

    3. Adonday Veeah*

      I agree, get another opinion. Is your attorney a labor attorney, or your corporate attorney? Talk to someone who specializes in labor law.

      It is not reasonable for you to create a position you don’t need in order to accommodate an employee’s disability. Furthermore, what would you have her do all day? You would assign her work that doesn’t need to be done (otherwise you’d already have someone on staff doing it).

      1. HRChick*

        He’s a labor attorney, which is why I was so taken aback. I will ask about getting a second opinion!

        I asked the director “Okay, well, what if we put her in an administrative position (even though she has no experience or training and we have no positions open) and she runs against a deadline? Is that too much stress?”

  24. Anon for this*

    I am still confused about what constitutes “reasonable accommodation” and what’s considered “undue hardship.” In my job, for example, the job description specifically states physical requirements, such as the ability to lift 50 pounds, climb stairs and ladders, and work rotating shifts. I have a few coworkers who have gotten doctors’ notes saying they can’t do some of these things. It seems to me that these things are essential functions of the job — especially shift work, since we are required to be staffed 24/7. Now, the employer technically can (and does) accommodate these requests by making other employees do more of the heavy lifting and shift work so the ones with doctors’ notes don’t have to, but are they required to do this or could it constitute an undue hardship?

    Consider for comparison a nurse who has a phobia of needles, and so every time a patient needs a shot or an IV, another nurse has to do it. It’s technically possible for the employer to divide up the work in such a way that one person doesn’t have to work with needles, but working with needles is kind of a big part of what nurses are hired to do. Is it within the employer’s rights to say, “We really need someone who can start IVs in this position, so if you can’t do that, we’ll have to let you go”? Or is the employer required to give the nurse a job that doesn’t involve working with needles?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’m not sure. At Exjob, I got hurt doing the shipping part of my job (lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow) and actually had to have work comp physical therapy. The shipping had actually worsened a pre-existing shoulder condition to the point where I was compensating for it, and that’s how I hurt my elbow. I couldn’t straighten or bend my arm for two days. The doctor said I couldn’t lift anything over ten pounds for several weeks. We had to buy a better hand truck for me to use when shipping boxes (which was fine; it lasted longer), and coworkers agreed to help me now and then when something was super heavy. I learned to shift boxes with my feet and the better hand truck helped a LOT.

      If the doctor had said, “You can’t do boxes over ten pounds ever again and shifting, etc. isn’t an option,” that would have severely impacted my ability to do that job. Since shipping was a large part of my job, and they couldn’t take it off my plate without hiring someone, I suppose they probably could have let me go and hired a person who had no such issues.

      (I’m glad to be out of there, anyway, because pushing and pulling heavy file folders laterally also hurt. I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover without surgery, but since I have no one to take care of me afterward, it either will have to wait or won’t ever happen.)

  25. Mark in Cali*

    This is a hot thread.

    Where’s the line of disability versus just “not able?”

    For example, someone said they have trouble memorizing. To me that’s not a disability, it’s just that you’re not so good at memorizing. Or the someone who needed to be stress free? We all need to be stress free, don’t you think? Some people certainly handle it better than others.

    I’m trying to be sensitive to disabilities (the more ambiguous ones that you can’t see), but then we wonder why we have customers who come across as needy, demanding, entitled. We are them! It seems that a majority of folks feel that any condition they have should be reasonably accommodated. However, I could probably come up with a list of things that affect my state of being that I could ask my boss to accommodate. I’ve talked to my doc about being tired and he says some people are just more tired. Should I get a doc’s note and ask that my work day be cut short because I’m one of those people? I’m not good a pulling reports because it takes me a long time to remember how to do it. Should I claim disability and always have my reports pulled by our analyst? Or maybe I’m just bad at reports and need more training.

    I feel like this comment may start a fire on the thread, but please know I’m trying to understand this better and see where others may be coming from. Sigh . . . reason 20,251 I don’t want to be a manager.

    1. Anon for this*

      That’s a good point, too. I posted upthread about how my job description says I must be able to lift 50 pounds, but a couple of coworkers have doctors’ notes saying they can’t (due to, say, a bad back). I also have a coworker who, as far as I know, has no disabilities, but she weighs 90 pounds and just isn’t strong enough to lift 50 pounds. Is there a difference between how the employer has to accommodate her vs. the ones who have medical problems?

      I have a great deal of sympathy for those with disabilities, and of course I want them to be able to make a living, but there are some jobs that simply require certain physical abilities that not everyone has. Where does the law draw the line?

  26. Chris*

    I have severe obstructive sleep apnea. My prior supervisor suggested an accommodation where I have a later start time, and if I am still late, I stay longer to make up the time. after he left, My new supervisor agreed to the accommodation I had been receiving. About that time I found out we were getting time clocks. I emailed him and cc:d HR that I had severe obstructive sleep apnea, and formally requested a reasonable accommodation of a flexible schedule. Also in my file was Medical Examination Reports that were required as part of having a CDL. These reports indicated my sleep apnea. There was a history of at least 8 years of having sleep apnea. I was asked to provide medical paperwork. The paperwork had the definition of Major Life Activity from the 1990 version of the ADA, and it didn’t list “sleep” as a major life function, as the Amended 2009 Act did. Because of this, my doctor didn’t see “sleep” listed, and checked no. 10 months after receiving the paperwork, my employer finally responded and denied my request. They wouldn’t tell me why the medical paperwork was insufficient, but I think it was because my doctor checked “No” to the sleep anea limiting a major life function. Since I had been unofficially receivng the accommodation for 3 years, and my file had medical paperwork documenting my disability, there was enough evidence that I had sleep apnea so that my employer didn’t even need the paperwork from my doctor. Since it is almost 2 years from my original request, do I have a case against my employer for not granting an accommodation for a disability that they were aware of?

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