I have a skin condition that prevents me from using my employers provided soap, do I have the right to accomodation? How can I protect myself?

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I have a skin condition that prevents me from using my employers provided soap, do I have the right to accomodation? How can I protect myself?

I work at Starbucks and I have a diagnosed skin condition that does not allow me to use the soap provided by the company. I have explained on several occasions to my manager that I have this condition and need to use the hand sanitizer suggested by my doctor. I presented this note to my manager with a little avail, she continues to throw out my hand sanatizing solution whenever she sees it and yesterday I was formally written up for not properly washing my hands. She also gave me a pamplet on hygiene to further escalate the issue. Any ideas? I feel a bit violated.

Asked on June 12, 2009 under Employment Labor Law, Colorado

Answers:

B. B., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If you are supplying the soap substitute yourself, I have a large problem with your manager's behavior.  I don't understand what her problem is, and I don't blame you for being upset.  I'd suggest, as a next step, getting a letter from your doctor, stating his diagnosis and what it means as far as the soap goes, and write a letter to the company, to the attention of your manager, asking for a reasonable acccommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Keep copies of the letters, of course!

If this doesn't work, please see a labor and employment lawyer in your area, who can give you reliable advice, based on all of the facts, on what to do next, because from what you are telling me, you may very well have a good case at that point.  One place to find a qualified attorney is our website, http://attorneypages.com

J.V., Member, New Jersey Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

An employer is obligated to respect a persons physical conditions and in your case if you have a valid medical condition with documentation than the employer is wrong for violating you in this way and throwing out your personal property (i.e. soap).

If your soap is not an equally effective sanitizer and the employer wants to make a case of that they can attempt to although probably not successfully as long as your sanitizer  gets the job done as well. At this point I would suggest you hire an attorney who handles these cases in your general area. Often times the initial consult is free and at that point you can review all the facts show your medical documentation and decide together if you have a valid action to pursue. good luck. Another quick idea is explaining to your employer you don't want to pursue this but also feel violated and that they do not respect your condition. Be polite and try that way first.


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