Fresh Flower Policy????

Does anyone have a policy on fresh flowers? We have an employee who insists that fresh flowers are irritating her allergies. We replaced all of the flowers in the building with artifical ones but one of our employees received fresh flowers from her husband for her birthday. We had to ask her to take them home because this other employee was complaining. I'm at a loss as to what to do!!!!!!!


  • 19 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Can you move this person to an area where she will not be exposed to the flowers? We had someone who was so allergic to perfume/cologne that we moved him to a space in the computer room to limit his exposure. In this case, he happened to be a computer programmer. We also spoke to one of the worst offenders and asked her not to wear perfume. She had no comcept of a little goes a long way. When the employee continued to complain, we offered this person the opportunity to work from home. He clearly didn't want to be at home, so he quit insisting that we speak to everyone who wore cologne and perfume to work. We had 500 people in the building at the time and it was impossible to ask everyone not to wear cologne or perfume.

    I think you have done everything you can to accomodate her by replacing the plants in the building. My only other suggestion is moving her to a spot that would limit her exposure or look at telecommuting. She must go outside at some point. So what does she do to control her allergies then? She should be doing the same in your office when they flare up.

    If you want to discuss further, please don't hesitate to cal me at 615-371-8200.

    Margaret Morford
  • We have dealt with a similar employee for years. This employee complains about her allergies whenever there is any change to her environment or her job. At these times I have always taken her concerns seriously and have offered her an isolated place to work. I have steadily maintained that we cannot control what people use for their shampoo, deodorant, etc. We have asked employees who work near her to avoid bringing live plants or flowers into the workplace and people have been very understanding. We are also about to ask all employees, through a personal grooming policy, to avoid scents whenever possible. She has, to date chosen to remain in the general work area and has not chosen to be isolated.
    There are some other options in the way of personal air filter equipment. We have not had to go that route yet.
  • At what point does "reasonable accommodation" for one become an infringement on the rights of others?
  • At what point does "reasonable accomodation" for one, become an infringement on the rights of others?

    Way past this point.

  • I think offering to move the person to an area where she may not have the exposure would be the best accomodation you could make. The accomodation doesn't have to be what the employee wants, but I feel it is an acceptable accomodation.

    In our medical facility, we ask that employees wear scents very sparingly or not at all. We have a lot of patients who are allergic to perfumes and it's usually the perfumes that cause the problem. Also, there are other employees who have major allergies. If a person wears a particularly strong scent, they are asked politely not to wear so much perfume as it bothers others. Most are very understanding.

    It would be almost impossible to mandate that employees not wear scents.
  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 03-06-02 AT 01:46PM (CST)[/font][p]Perhaps reading of your problem caught me at precisely the wrong moment. My thinking is that for an employee to beg no contact in the office with the very sort of things she is exposed to daily in nature, is at best, unreasonable, and, at worst, ridiculous. My first suspicion is that the employee is one who never receives flowers and is resentful when someone else does. Don't assume that each and every little affront perceived by an employee must be accomodated by the employer. If we do that, the workplace will soon be 'dumbed down' to the point where there is absolutely no freedom of expression or right to individuality; no perfume, no makeup, no hair spray, no monoxidil except the kind with a guarantee of no fragrance, no mouthwash, no deoderant,no shaving lotion, no Dr. Scholl's airsoles, no clothes that were dried in a dryer with softener sheets, no microwaves in the breakroom, no sack lunches brought it, no discreet belching after a lunch that included a snap of garlic or a slice of onion, no crockpots of soup brought by that wonderful guy who loves to impress everyone with his latest version of group-soup on Friday, and, in those especially architecturally incorrect buildings - no raising the window on a spring day when the temperature reaches 70 for the first time this year. Candle burning and too much fragrance are one thing, and they should be monitored and addressed; however, flowers? Sorry. What an insane world the ACLU, EEOC and ADA have driven us toward! Don in MS.
  • Don D - I'm glad you got caught on a bad mood because your response put me in a good one. Laughter is great medicine. Send a copy of it to your legislators. They need to see it.
  • What a guy!!! Love your reply!!!
  • With my apologies to Don above, I am going to advocate for the employee.

    Let's assume that the employee really is allegeric to the flowers. The flowers make her sneeze, cough, and feel miserable.

    What are the other employees giving up by not having fresh flowers in the workplace? Not much. This is an incredibly small inconvenience to ask them not to have fresh flowers at work. Also, if they know that a co-worker is allergic, I would expect them to be understanding.

    So I say, keep the flowers out.

    Good Luck!!

  • I think you have made a very good point. I would like to say that I am very allergic to flowers, springtime is a menace to me. Depending on the flowers (and whatever is included with them), my problems can range from constant sneezing and watery itchy eyes, which is inconvenient and irritating, all the up to constant wheezing and not being able to breathe (literally not being able to draw a complete breath without extreme difficulty).

    I appreciate the beauty of flowers and I think that it is wonderful that people receive them, however I think that getting rid of the flowers instead of having to use an inhaler several times during the day in a situation where it could be avoided is a better (more considerate?) option.

  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 08-22-02 AT 02:18PM (CST)[/font][p]I bring the same response as in the past. WHAT DOES THE EMPLOYEE do IN THE OUTSIDE ENVIROMENT OF WORK....... Does this person where a mask to get around while she is shopping, driving, walking or talking. This is not a case of ADA or reasonable accommodation.
  • WHo says she is allergic -- her or a Dr's statement?

    Under the ADA the affected person has the responsibility to suggest resonable accomodations, put some of the responsibility where it belongs..........

  • You're missing the point. Individuals with allergies do not make the choice to become ill from the things that cause them difficulties. Allergies can be severe enough to be life threatening. Yes, people do have the right to wear perfumes or get fresh flowers. Having said that, they do not have the right to make others smell it. Air in office buildings is polluted air. Copy machines, cleaning products, new carpets, painting etc. give off gases that can and do make alot of people ill. Just because it doesn't you doesn't mean it doesn't someone else. People who have these kinds of sensitivites need accommodation and are entitled to it by law when it reaches the level of disability. Check out JAN through the DOL. Air in an office building is typically recirculated air. That means that alittle fresh air is included from the outside but the air is mainly reheated or recooled and used over and over again. This makes it very difficult for individuals to get away from the substance that is causing the problem. Flowers smells are diluted outside because of the volume of air available. I'll bet the individual who has the problem doesn't have flowers in their yard and avoids stores with perfume counters or porpouri. Sometimes medication can be taken to help minimize symptoms but this is not a cure and often has side effects of it's own. Did you know that flower shops usually add a synthetic fragrance to flowers to give them that smell? Companies need to be aware that more employees everyday are becoming ill from exposures to a wide variety of products and substances in the workplace. Indoor Air Quality IAQ is a growing issue of importance to companies because of WC and legal actions. Do yourself a favor and check out [url][/url] . All companies should be aware of potential problems from air quality issues. Would you honestly tell someone in a wheelchair that they are jealous of others who walk take the stairs instead of an elevator? Why would you think a person who is allergic to flowers is jealous of someone else in the office who recieves them. By all means ask for medical documentation but also make sure that discrimination of unseen disability is not occuring. If you ask for documentation make sure you ask it of all employees who ask for company acceptions such as people with asthma, miagraines,heart problems, etc. This is a legal minefield!
  • Who put a burr under your saddle? It is utterly ridiculous for you to launch off into such a diatribe that contains the absurd correlation of telling a wheelchair dependent person to use the stairs! How outrageous. For the past 6 months, this particular thread has been dissected 12 ways from Sunday with everybody making valid points. Yours is no more valid than any of the others, including my own. This is supposed to be conversational and thought provocative, not confrontational and accusatory as is your post. The woman's complaint was that she was 'irritated' not that she was disabled. Flower allergies do not rise to the level of a disability typically, perhaps never. If you intended to present an alternative side to the discussion, you sure could have approached it differently. Have a nice day.
  • Don,
    Sorry, if I sounded hostile. It was not my intent. This happens to be a sore subject with me as I am an individual with chemical sensitivities which does rise to the level of a disability. HR people in particular need to understand there are hidden disabilities that are not obvious and making fun of people and trying to be "doctors" in deciding how much irritation it causes someone is a risky buisness. Remember how peanuts are no longer served on planes or smoking? It's because allergies can and do cause people severe enough problems to rise to the level of a disability. Imagine going to work for 8 hours a day and having your eyes run/burn/itch/, stuffy nose, cough, headache etc. (and those are the mild reactions) just so that people can get flowers at work. We all have to breathe the same air. You and others may think it's a nuisance rather than important issue but as I stated in earlier post, indoor air quality is a growing concern. Look at the number of schools who have closed due to mold containmenation. Yes, mold allergies bother alot of people but increasingly people (teachers in particular) are becoming disabled because of repeat exposures to allergy triggers. Unfortunately, unless it affects you most have a diffcult time understanding. My point in bringing in a wheelchair was that nobody questions them, or a blind person. Let someone with asthma or a chemical allergy request the same understanding and unfortunately alot of employers don't get it. Asthma in children is at a near epidimic rate and the air quality in our schools is a contributing factor. So please before you decide it's a person's preference to wear perfume or cologne or have fresh flowers realize there are those that can and do have problems. If someone has the courage to complain it's more than likely a real health issue with them. Most suffer in silence because they don't like being singled out as a "complainer" or want the guilt trip, or comments of she's just jealous. I hope I have redeemed myself. Please forgive my sore spot. I promise to watch my tone in the future. x:-8
  • I have read the various responses. Allow me to suggest that every one is correct and yet wrong.

    If the concern is whether an employer is legally required to remove the fresh flowers because of the ADA, then I suggest that that you go through the ADA analysis. The first step is to determine if the person is "disabled" within the meaning of the statute. That determination can only be made based upon medical evidence. If the medical evidence indicates that the person is "disabled" within the meaning of the statute, you should then go through the interactive process to find a "reasonable accommodation." Several of you have suggested such accommodations.

    If the conclusion is that the person is not disabled within the meaning of the statute, then you move into nonlegal HR considerations. It is true that not every complaint or irritation that an employee experiences needs to be solved. Some times you just have to live with it. However, it seems to me that in the interests of civility, common decency, and just good management technique, the issue should be discussed with the employees to see if they cannot arrive at an acceptable solution. If people become unreasonable, then you have to fall into your role as parent and impose a solution.

    Your situation will be more difficult if the person complaining about fresh flowers is not well-liked and is a complainer. If that is the case and the ADA is not implicated and if you cannot achieve an acceptable resolution, then for the good of the organization, separation from employment is an option. This may sound harsh, but I have adopted what I call the California Doctrine. If a problem employee gives a reason to end the employment relationship, end it. No second chances. No let us reason together. No I want to be helpful and understanding. Problem employees generally do not change and will continue to cause problems and disruption.

  • I re-read my original post on this subject and would like to submit that it is not 'wrong' as suggested. It merely states possibilities and food for thought, like the other posts. I don't think any of them are 'wrong'. Admittedly mine is full of tongue-in-cheek frustrations of the day with the myriad of legal mindfields agencies require us to negotiate. I like your legal assessment although I still hold that such a broad, early leap is overkill. Jumping from "Fresh flowers irritate me all the way to let's do an ADA analysis" is quite imaginative and presumptious. I do wonder what became of this problem since it was posted 15 months ago today. x:-)
  • Don,
    You're right it was posted a year ago today. I just happened to have read it yesterday. It's Friday and I hope everyone has a nice weekend. :DD
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