Visitor Question

What happens if you develop an allergy to chemicals at work?

Submitted By: Anonymous (Statesville, North Carolina)

My sister works for a company where she’s been for many years. In the last several years she has developed an allergy to the chemicals that she works with. She has even been in the hospital once for anaphylactic shock due to the chemicals.

The company has tried some very basic options for her that do not include getting her out of the chemicals. Some of her symptoms are recurring and she is afraid of being terminated.

What can she do? Does the company have an obligation to remove her from the toxic environment? Or provide an alternative job? Thank you for any information you can provide.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Anonymous,

Workplace allergies can present a unique set of issues. Unlike a fall or other direct physical injury in the workplace, the cause of an allergy can be hard to determine in certain situations.

In your question, you indicate that your sister has developed this workplace allergy in the last several years. You don’t tell us whether the exact chemical causing the allergy has been identified. The ability to determine the exact cause of your sister’s problem will be an important part of her ability to get help.

If you can prove that the chemicals are causing her allergy, then she may have a workers’ compensation claim if the impact on her physical health is serious enough.

We don’t know enough from your question to tell you more about a potential worker’s comp claim, but an experienced worker’s compensation attorney can help explore that issue further.

If the cause of her allergy is known, your sister may be entitled to a workplace accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA requires an employer to make reasonable accommodations for a known disability of an employee if those accommodations would not impose an “undue hardship” on the employer’s business.

The ADA defines an employee with a disability as someone who:

“… has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.”

Under the ADA, working is a major life activity. The ADA permits an employee to request a transfer to a different location that will allow her to work away from the allergy-causing chemicals. Keep in mind that an employer is required to offer reasonable accommodations only if asked to do so.

Your sister may also get help from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

If your sister’s doctor has determined the specific cause of her allergies in the workplace, she should consider contacting an experienced plaintiff’s employment law attorney to fully explore her rights.

Learn more here: Unsafe Working Conditions and Compensation

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

Best of luck with your claim,

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