Talk about a reasonable accommodation challenge. What is an employer to do when its accommodation of one employee’s medical condition triggers another employee’s medical condition? The New York Times reported recently that the City of Indianapolis faced such a situation recently and is now facing an EEOC “failure to accommodate” charge. 

According to the Times article, a City employee has a very severe reaction to paprika, so severe that she almost died a few years ago from eating chili with paprika in it, had to leave work early when a co-worker was eating buffalo wings containing paprika, had been to the emergency room five times in the past five years for allergic reactions to paprika, and had injected herself with an anti-allergy injection 11 times in the last few years. Concerned about a fatal attack, the employee obtained a dog trained to detect paprika and the City gave her permission to bring the dog to work.

You guessed it. The first day the dog came to work, another City employee who is allergic to dogs had an asthma attack.  According to the article, the City revoked permission for the dog to come to work, which led to the failure to accommodate charge.

So, one employee needs the service dog as an accommodation while another needs the service dog removed as an accommodation. Which accommodation should the employer grant? While general guidelines for conducting the interactive dialogue to search for an accommodation can be gleaned from various court decisions,  dealing with incompatible requests for accommodation requests is somewhat unique. You can be sure that Congress never contemplated that possibility when it created an employer’s duty to reasonably accommodate an employee’s disability. . .