Human Resources News & Insights

Really? The temperature in your office could violate ADA?

Our team of experts fields real-life, everyday questions from HR managers and gives practical answers that can be applied by any HR pro in the same situation. Today’s issue: Responding to employee requests for turning up — or down — the temperature in the workplace.

The question

We have an employee who frequently complains about the temperature of the office. Could we get in trouble if we don’t adjust the thermostat per her requests?

The answer

Welcome to life under the new Americans with Disabilities Act.

If the staffer has a disability where temperature adversely affects her, then yes, you could get in trouble, says Kevin Maltby on Employment Law Bits.

If the staffer has a medical issue that makes her sensitive to cold, such as anemia or low blood pressure, you may have to make a reasonable accommodation.

Conversely, some people have conditions where they need to be in cooler temperatures to be comfortable – for instance, menopausal employees.

Bottom line: You may need to keep certain parts of a building at higher or lower temperatures as a reasonable accommodation for people with certain medical conditions.

One note: It’s crucial to prevent employee access to thermostats. With everybody adjusting the temperature to fit their personal preference, you could run into all sorts of problems – and ultimately into an ADA violation.

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  • jay

    I received a written warning for asking a question in a open enrollment meeting about our new insurance plan the question was does the new plan cover more then 3 ultrasounds and I used another employees situation as a example everyone knows of this employees situation but I was written up for violating employees confidential