Migraine-Triggering Fragrances & The Workplace
Exposure to fragrances from product likes perfume, air fresheners and cleaning products are difficult for Migraine patients in that they can not only trigger Migraine attacks, but be intolerable during an attack. One way of dealing with this when you're at work is to ask your employer for an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with health issues by requiring employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" in the workplace if an employee has a mental or physical medical condition that substantially limits a major life activity. The ADA does not explicitly describe which conditions are covered by the law. Instead, certain criteria are considered in making the decision.
Based on 2008 changes to the ADA, the determination of whether an employee is disabled and therefore protected has changed. The employer must now consider whether the medical condition substantially limits a major life activity when the condition is active. Before Congress passed the 2008 amendments, courts had said a condition was not covered by the ADA if medication or other treatments could mitigate the effects of the illness.
This change make it much easier to make a case to your employer that Migraine is a covered disability under the ADA.
You will want to make a request, preferably in writing, asking human resources for a reasonable accommodation related to fragrances due to Migraine disease. Ask your doctor to write a letter to your employer confirming your diagnosis and explaining the ways in which fragrances negatively impact your condition. This is not required by law, but doing so may encourage a reluctant employer to make the necessary changes.
In making a request for reasonable accommodations it is important to know how much your employer can to do to help you. Your employer can ask all employees not to wear or use fragrances, change cleaning products and put up signs requesting a fragrance-free environment. But if your work place is open to the public it may not be possible to ban all fragrances. If use of a fragrance is not within your employer's control there may not be much they can do to prevent you from being exposed to it.
Do you have questions about requesting a reasonable accommodation under the ADA? Please share them in the comments.
Have you taken our Migraine In America Survey yet?