I had the pleasure of being a guest on Jim Richards’ NEWSTALK1010 radio show today. I was asked to comment on the controversy concerning the removal of poinsettia plants from a Bell Canada building in Mississauga. You can read the original news story by clicking here. The removal of the plants is to protect an employee whose doctor verified that contact with the plants, even their residue, could be life-threatening to him or her.
To listen to the interview, click on the video below.
I clarified that being allergic to poinsettias likely means allergic to latex, since the sap shares common proteins to latex. When you pinch off flowers or leaves, you see the milky white sap, and it gets on your fingers. That sap gets spread around as workers touch other items, like tables, keyboards, and door knobs.
Some people don’t need to actually touch their allergen to react, they can have an airborne reaction. Poinsettias can cause an airborne reaction for some people, just like a bunch of latex containing balloons in their workplace could.
Let’s keep in mind that this worker’s doctor verified that for her, any contact with poinsettias or their residue could be life-threatening. The doctor said contact, and the sap could definitely get on surfaces that he or she would come in contact with.
The employee may have tolerated them in the same space last Christmas season, but the allergy may have progressed to the point that she’s more sensitive to contact or even airborne reactive, so just being in the same airspace could put him or her into anaphylactic shock. I do know of one individual who has gone into anaphylactic shock in the same circumstances.
Employees are entitled to reasonable accommodations in the workplace. The Ontario Human Rights Code and human resource policies dictate this. Let’s keep in mind that this Bell campus already had a plant free policy for several years, since they moved into that building, maybe to make the move easier. No one objected, and no one at Bell is objecting now to removing the poinsettias. Why would they object, when enforcing the existing policy is protecting a co-worker’s life? Is that unreasonable?
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