Queens, NY asked in Employment Law for New York

Q: the company can fire me because my health condition (cold allergy) ??

it's been 1 month that I'm in this new job. it's a warehouse and they have 3 zones there: ambient, chilled and frozen.

everybody needs to stay 2 hours in the frozen zone (they provide special clothes)

but I have cold allergy ( it's kind of rare urticaria, and mine is the severous kind)

I didn't know that I would be exposed to cold temperatures when I get hired.

I told them about my condition but I think they didn't understand.

now I want to talk to the HR and explain that it's a safe issue to me. but I don't want to get fired.

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1 Lawyer Answer
V. Jonas Urba
V. Jonas Urba
  • New York, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: A suggestion might be to launch the interactive process.

What's that? You request a reasonable accommodation based on your "disability" which does not cause your employer an undue hardship. Remember that you must be able to perform the essential functions of your job with or without a reasonable accommodation. This particular job may or may not be the right fit for you depending on what accommodation you may need and whether providing that accommodation will cause the undue hardship to your employer. That is a very extensive process.

Why do employees lose their jobs for similar situations? Because some, not necessarily you, don't want to engage, meaning have a reasonable, non-confrontational discussion with their employer. Sometimes an employee waits until the employer is already unhappy about the employee's performance which is never good. Assuming that you have been performing your job well so far any reasonable employer should be open to discussing an accommodation for you.

You need to discuss what your understanding was up front, what you discussed with the employer, and how you can perform the essential functions of your job. Let's say you take your job description to a physician. The physician reviews it and tells you this is not the job for you, that would be bad. However, if the physician suggested that you take more frequent warm-up breaks and this does not disrupt the employer's process that might be reasonable. There are literally thousands of possibilities here.

What's the most important thing? You sitting down, face-to-face preferably, with someone who understands the interactive process and accommodation. Texts won't do, emails are terrible, and having others speak for you is usually not optimal. Keep an open discussion, remain civil during the process, understand that there may come a point where everyone decides another position may be better suited for you. Not every position works for every employee, with or without accommodations. It all depends on the facts. Good luck.

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