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Does the ADA Cover Asthma and Allergies?

Medically Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on September 01, 2020

The Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, is a law that bans discrimination against you if you have a disability, which the ADA defines as a physical or mental condition that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

The ADA doesn’t name all of the conditions it covers. But asthma and allergies are usually considered to be disabilities under the ADA. If you have asthma or allergies, it can have an effect on things including your breathing, eating, working, and going to school.

The ADA used to apply only if your condition affected you all the time. But since your asthma and allergies may affect you only when they’re triggered, the ADA guidelines now accept conditions that show symptoms only at certain times.

Similarly, it used to be that if you could feel better with the use of a device, you weren’t covered under the ADA. For example, if you used an inhaler, the ADA would not cover your condition. But that has changed, since some people don’t get full relief from an inhaler. Now, the ADA applies even if you use medication for allergies and asthma.

If you have asthma or allergies, the ADA could protect you from employer discrimination in terms of recruitment, firing, hiring, promotions, job assignments, training, pay, benefits, leave, or layoffs.

How the ADA Can Help

If you have asthma or allergies, the ADA can help you feel safe and healthier when you work, shop, go to school, or eat. Under the ADA, a business can’t deny you if you’re qualified because of your allergies or asthma. Instead, they will need to provide an allergy-friendly lunchroom or work environment.

Public and nonreligious private schools also must create friendly environments that are free of asthma or allergy triggers. Even if the school doesn’t get funds from the government, they must follow the ADA.

The Americans with Disabilities Act calls a change made to make you more comfortable an accommodation. You and the people in your space will work together to make a shift that best fits your well-being.

An accommodation may include a workspace reorganization to get rid of things you’re allergic to, lower triggers like odors, or replace old carpets. But organizations don’t need to make a change that causes a huge alteration.

For example, if the company doesn’t have enough money to support your change or it would drastically adjust the way it does business, you wouldn’t be able to ask for it to accommodate you in that way. But your company must make a strong effort to help you stay comfortable before it denies your request. The only way a business can deny your accommodation is if it has considered all options first.

How to Ask for Accommodations

If you have allergies or asthma and want to feel more comfortable in your environment, you can talk to a manager, school administrator, employer, or other person in charge. They’ll help you figure out the best way to get reasonable changes or services.

There are many resources you can use to get advice or ideas on how to ask for accommodations. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has a hotline that you can call and ask questions. That phone number is 800-514-0301. You can visit www.ada.gov for more information.

If a Business Denies Your Request

A company might deny your request for accommodations if you don’t provide the right documents that show medical proof of a disability. It may also reject your request if you’re able to do the job or function the same way that someone else would.

If you think that a company denied your accommodations request unfairly, you can:

  • Ask it to consider your request again.
  • File a complaint with an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) counselor or ADA coordinator, Office of Disability Rights, Office of Human Rights, or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

ADA National Network: “What is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?”

U.S. Department of Justice: “A Guide to Disability Rights Laws.”

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America: “Are Asthma and Allergies Disabilities?”

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: “The ADA: Your Employment Rights as an Individual With a Disability.”

DC.gov: “Denying a Request for an Accommodation.”

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