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Pet friendly office policy

Hi.  I've been working for the same company for 17 years.  A few months ago they announced that they are going to begin allowing people to bring their dogs to work. To make matters worse, we also have an open office policy (no offices, just pods with very low walls).

I am highly allergic to all animals with fur and end up with asthma for days if I allow myself to be in a situation with them.  I've heard that they are making "accommodations" for people with allergies but in our office I can't think of one that would work.

I sent HR a note 2 months ago explaining my objections (note included below) and have heard nothing since other than the note was forwarded to the team making up the policy details.

Has anyone experienced anything like this?  Any advice?

 

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I've recently learned that the *** office will be dog friendly in the near future.

This policy change poses a significant problem for me and is an issue with my health and wellbeing.  The most urgent issue is that I am highly allergic to all animals with fur. The dander, which is airborne, causes me not just to sniffle but results in wheezing and asthma which can last for days. This is in addition to the standard allergy symptoms of sniffles and itchy, red eyes.  None of those conditions end immediately when I am removed from the situation with the animal. 

My allergy triggered asthma has impacted my life in many ways.  I've missed innumerable personal events due to friends' pets.  I am unable to spend time at my sister’s house.  I even had to end a relationship because of it.   I structure my life and make decisions to function around the limitations I have due to my allergic asthma.   I've never needed to consider it when coming to work.  The fact that I now do is alarming and disappointing. 

I understand that there will be proposed accommodations for those of us who are allergic.  In an open office environment I cannot think of an accommodation that would work.  The allergy is to the dander.  To move me away from the animals does not account for the fact that dander is in the air.  Additionally, to move me away from our team works directly against the culture of collaboration that is encouraged at ***.

In the conversations I've already had on this topic it was suggested that I take medication.  In order to even spend a few hours with an animal I need to medicate myself so heavily that I'm so sleepy that I may as well not be there.  I won't be getting a series of shots.  The Americans with Disabilities Act specifically excludes requiring employees to take medication as part of a reasonable accommodation. 

This decision by *** puts me in a contentious and uncomfortable situation with my fellow associates.  Understandably they love their pets and many are excited about this change.   My justified, wellness-based resistance to the idea makes me the bad guy.  It has happened already.  I’m having to defend myself due to a health condition that is not my fault.  I’ve already overheard a conversation about “why doesn’t she just…”. 

There will be both personal and professional repercussions to me as a result of this decision and any assurances that this will not be the case are not backed up by my experiences.

Thank you for any support or suggestions on dealing with this unfortunate situation.

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  • K8sMom2002

    Oh, gosh, this is very distressing! Your letter sounds very well thought out and lays it out perfectly. It stinks that you're having to go through this and that you're being painted the bad guy because of it.

    I'm not sure if you've checked out AAFA's resource called  While you sound really well-versed in the ADA, it does give you some additional contacts to consider reaching out to.

    When is the proposed "fur-friendly" policy supposed to go into effect?

  • PluckPA

    The details of the policy have not been ironed out but my understanding is that this will be put into place in early 2018.  

    The site lead (who is also a powerful Director) has a team of sled dogs that she races.  From the way I've heard her speak she has zero understanding of how allergies work.

    I want to suggest that I should then be allowed to bring my 7 year old son to work over the summer:

    • It would be a stress reliever for me to know he's safe
    • I'd be more productive because I wouldn't need to leave to get him from camp
    • He'd be quiet if I hand him an ipad
    • He doesn't even need to be walked
    • He rarely barks

    Thanks for directing me to that resource.  I will check it out.  I have a doctor appointment next week to talk to him about the situation.  The thing is that this isn't documented by him because I don't put myself in situations to get sick!  Like I said in the letter, I have structured my life around avoiding animals.

    It's very frustrating and upsetting.  And I can't voice it to most of my co-workers because they support the policy.

     

  • K8sMom2002
    PluckPA posted:.

    I want to suggest that I should then be allowed to bring my 7 year old son to work over the summer:

    • It would be a stress reliever for me to know he's safe
    • I'd be more productive because I wouldn't need to leave to get him from camp
    • He'd be quiet if I hand him an ipad
    • He doesn't even need to be walked
    • He rarely barks.

     

    Oh, I love this! 

    As for documentation … hmh … could you get a letter from one of these folks?

    • the doctor who first diagnosed you with asthma/dander allergies
    • the doctor who prescribes your inhaler and updates your

    Another possibility: can you request records from any ER or hospital stay that was a result of being exposed to pet dander?

  • Pljohns

    Just did this of sorts with construction fumes-I filed a reasonable accommodation request with my HR.  It was approved so they had to accommodate me.  they didn't, which let to me filing an complaint with EEOC because we are protected by the ADA.  I would check with your HR and see if they have a reasonable accommodation policy and if not, check out the EEOC's web site-there is TONS of good info out there.

    I hope they do something so you don't have to go through that!

  • K8sMom2002

    Thanks for chiming in, PLJohns! Your case makes me hopeful that PluckPA won't have to endure an unsafe environment. 

    PluckPA … hang in there! We're here for you!

  • Shea

    Ugh. I would work on getting a note from your doctor. I would try to use info from this link below when talking to hR next too:

     

    I would let them know that dander does cause worsening of asthma and allergies, that medication is not a solution to chronic dander exposure. PEOPLE FIRST.

    It is bad enough right now that service dogs trump people with allergies right now, but not allowing workers to bring their pets to work does NOT produce undue hardship to the company (as long as its not a vets office). We have to fight these things or us who CANNOT breathe will have no where to gO!

    I also have severe pet dander allergies, and my ex had cats and dogs, I got so sick, tried medicating when we were living together and at first I thought they were working but it was only temporary, and I started getting so sick, tried keeping dander our of a room, DOES NOT WORK, I ended up developing a chronic allergic disease called churg-strauss syndome, and allergic blood cells called eosinophils surrounded my heart and caused me a heart attack at age 28, nearly killed me! I had to move my son and I out of our home because his father had more attachment to his pets and denial of the severity of my allergic symptoms than attachment to his own human family- me and our newborn  son. Stuff like this makes me sick to my stomach. I now have such severe allergies and effects from the disease including asthma, skin rash, vasculitis, my heart is still recovering, and I did get approved for disability, but it was a fight.. took 3 times and a hearing, but now I get to recover safe at home with my son. My son has severe cat and dog allergies too. I just still pray one day I will be able to work again but with emotional animals trumping allergies… we are losing this battle and it is WRONG. I hope you fight it at least very least and win it at the most because this is just not fair! And even if I never have to step into an office to work again, my son will, and other places like schools and stores, we have to stop this!!!

  • Jen

    Hi pluckpa,

    Welcome to AAFA's asthma support forum.  I can definitely understand why you're concerned over the new policy.  Have you reached out again to HR or others at your work who may have some influence?

  • Kathy P

    How are talks regarding the new policy going? Did they ever respond to your letter?

  • K8sMom2002

    @PluckPA, were you able to get a response from HR on this? What suggestions did your doctor have? 

  • Jen

    @PluckPA What advice did your doctor give to you about the pets in the office policy?