Is it legal for an employer to refuse to let employees wear gloves at work despite that they need to for health reasons?

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Is it legal for an employer to refuse to let employees wear gloves at work despite that they need to for health reasons?

My mom works as a cashier at a supermarket. During the cold season my mom’s hands get really cold, swell up, and become painful from the cold. She and other cashiers requested the owner to allow them to wear gloves but the owner refused to let them by saying that it will break the keyboards of the cash machine. My mom had to go to the doctor and ask for a note that allowed her to wear arthritis gloves. The owner allowed it beacause it was from the doctor but is still pestering my mom to take them off at work. Is it legal for employers to treat employees this way when it come to their health?

Asked on April 2, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The issue is whether wearing gloves is a "reasonable" accomodation. If your mother can do her job (cashier) with little fall off in speed or accuracy, and little chance of damage to to the keyboard, it is reasonable and they should allow it and not harass her over it.

On the other hand, if the gloves causes her to be noticeably less productive or creates a real risk of damage to the equipment, then the employer could refuse to let her wear the gloves; the law does not require the employer to incur considerable risk, cost, or inefficiency to accomodate an employee.


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