Requesting accommodation at the office, Covid-19 edition
March 14, 2020 4:39 PM   Subscribe

Looking since October, and I may finally have a job again April 1. Complication: Asthma triggered by extensive use of ammonia or bleach based cleaning products. And vinegar and citrus and dumb “scent freshener” products (I use unscented EVERYTHING at home).

Every winter cold and flu season at my various jobs I’ve had to go through this, from work mates walking around as if propelled by the aresol Lysol disinfectant they replace the air in the room with. I ask them to stop, generally get ignored, then take an early lunch every time they do it until they run out of Lysol or finally get sick anyway. One place it was a vaper who wouldn’t stop despite the laws and was so old guard they wouldn’t make them stop so I finally quit.

Now, With everyone sanitizing ALL THE THINGS with these wipes, it’s unavoidable. Never mind that they’re also doing it wrong (not keeping the area wet for four min). I don’t expect people will let up on it soon.

If I start this job in April, they’ll be doing this like crazy. Is warm soapy water (I’m okay with non scented dish soaps) at least in areas I’ll be in closed in (huddle rooms) enough? What’s the best way to approach HR about it? Mid sized company, finally, with grown up HR and 150+ employees.
posted by tilde to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Given the COVIC-19 situation, if I were your co-worker I would not be comfortable without real disinfectant being used to clean common spaces. If my workplace suddenly stopped disinfecting properly and switched to dish soap, I'd be hightailing it to management to complain that employee safety was not being observed.

Are there legitimate products that you know of that don't contain the scents? (FWIW, I also find those awful and I don't have any breathing problems.) Could you go to HR with a suggestion of a comparable product to be used as a replacement?
posted by mccxxiii at 5:25 PM on March 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Ideally, because it sounds like you may be requesting reasonable accommodations under the ADA or similar legal protections, you could Get a Lawyer (MeFi Wiki) for a consultation about how to request reasonable accommodations tailored to your state laws, which may offer additional protections (e.g. The National Employment Lawyers Association maintains an online lawyer directory).

In addition, The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers free, confidential one-on-one guidance on workplace accommodations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related legislation, and the ADA National Network offers confidential informal guidance on ADA issues.
posted by katra at 5:51 PM on March 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Well I’m having actual asthma attacks. Several meetings over the last weeks in freshly Clorox wiped closed rooms had me doing steroid breathing treatments in addition to keeping up with my daily preventative meds.

In my last weeks in the open 3500 square foot open office table setting as far away from vaper as possible, I’d use recovery meds nearly daily. Thankfully they went on vacation my last week there so I had a chance to breathe and realize quitting was a smart move.
posted by tilde at 7:38 PM on March 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

While dish soap isn't an all-purpose sanitizer, it does work well against coronaviruses specifically. See here: Vox article on soap.

What is isn't is easy - you have to wash surfaces with soap then rinse and dry with a clean cloth. So actually, the benefit of sanitizing wipes is convenience (and perhaps better activity for viruses and bacteria other than coronavirus.)

At least for the first few months of the epidemic, it might make sense to see if you cou just get permission to work from home.
posted by mercredi at 7:45 PM on March 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

At least for the first few months of the epidemic, it might make sense to see if you cou just get permission to work from home.

I came to suggest this, and I'd bet that this is the most likely accommodation your new management will be able to offer you.

The COVID-19 threat is a serious one and at least in my jurisdiction, I'd be required to balance the health and safety of the other employees and the community at large against your equally legitimate needs.
posted by rpfields at 7:54 PM on March 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Working out it seems. They’ll put me in an office I can close a door on, will let me bring in unsecnted soap and sanitizer to use. Their standard protocol is to not let cleaning staff into closed offices; just close at night and leave my trash can outside.
posted by tilde at 2:57 PM on May 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

« Older Help me design a clever DnD labyrinth puzzle.   |   Torn about flying cross-country to visit my family... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.