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Allergic Accommodation
A federal Court in Ohio recently ruled that a horrible case of hayfever might qualify as a "disability" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The case involved William Woods, a delivery driver for the United Parcel Service (UPS) in Austin, Texas.

In 1988, Woods developed an allergy to the pollen of Mountain Cedar, a plant native to central Texas. By 1994, his allergic reactions were constant and severe, causing fevers, nasal and lung congestion, blisters, and fatigue. When medical treatments failed, Woods' doctor advised him to leave Texas.

Woods asked for a transfer, but was denied. He was later advised by both the Austin and Cincinnati human resources managers to resign and apply for a position in Ohio. Based on this advice, Woods resigned and applied for a job in Cincinnati.

However, UPS then told Woods that he could not be rehired, since UPS had a policy to not rehire former employees. Woods contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which sued UPS on his behalf for violating the ADA.

According to the evidence, Woods' allergies were so severe that he often had trouble breathing and caring for himself. In fact, when Woods requested a transfer, he was spending all his non-working hours in bed. So, the Court ruled that Woods' allergies may be severe enough for him to be considered "disabled" under the ADA.

Because the ADA requires employers to consider transferring disabled workers as a reasonable accommodation, the Court decided the case in favor of Woods and against UPS.

If you have questions about this topic and would like to get answers tailored to you, read Memos:
5730 Employer Must Accommodate Disabled Persons
5745 Accommodating Disabilities: Job or Schedule Changes
5750 Accommodating Disabilities: Policy Changes

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