With the heat of the summer upon us, many employers provide air conditioning to combat the inevitable heat. However, employers need to be cautious that the air conditioning does not have a chilling effect on employee comfort.
Air conditioning that is not properly regulated to an agreeable temperature could potentially have an adverse effect on employees, especially those with poor circulation or other medical conditions that make them sensitive to the cold. An employer should strive to find an agreeable temperature for all employees; however, this may be easier said than done.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recommends that employers keep the workplace between 68-76⁰F. Although these are only recommendations, employers should attempt to strive for a workplace temperature in this zone to keep the majority of employees comfortable.
In addition, an employer may need to make reasonable accommodations for employees who have a medical condition that makes them extremely sensitive to cold, such as anemia or low blood pressure. An employer may also need to accommodate employees who, due to certain physiological changes, require colder temperatures to maintain a certain level of comfort. This may require employers to keep certain parts of a building at higher or lower temperatures for these employees.
If an employer fails to take employee temperature complaints seriously, that employer may be opening the company up to a discrimination claim. An employer is required to make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities and medical conditions, and failure to do so could bring legal consequences. Therefore, employers should take employee complaints regarding workplace temperature seriously and make any reasonable accommodation necessary for the employee.
It is also important that employers are clear about regulation of workplace temperature because employees may have a tendency to adjust the temperature to their own personal preference, disregarding the comfort of others if thermostats are openly accessible. To remedy this employers should prevent open access to thermostats and have designated individuals who are allowed to adjust the temperature.
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