It’s cold/hot in here

by Walter Olson on July 15, 2012

“If an employer fails to take employee temperature complaints seriously, that employer may be opening the company up to a discrimination claim,” premised on lack of disability accommodation. “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.” [Bacon Wilson law firm]

P.S. James Fulford: “Thermostat conflict between secretarial staff in summer dresses and lawyers in three-piece suits is common in law firms.”

{ 6 comments }

1 boblipton 07.15.12 at 6:28 am

No, Cratchitt, it’s a roaring hell in here. No more coal!

Bob

2 David Eggers 07.15.12 at 11:41 am

This has been the case for years. Not only are thermostats hidden from workers, they’re often put into a nondescript box in some mechanical room so building technicians can’t find them either. There’s really no way to get more than 90% of people happy, but its just bad business to ignore complaints due to productivity issues.

3 Anna 07.15.12 at 9:17 pm

When did American’s become so damned delicate? I grew up in California and Arizona when AC was a luxury item. People managed to work, play, and live just fine.

4 Mark Biggar 07.16.12 at 1:48 pm

In many cases temperature is carefully kept at such a value that is best for the comfort of the machinery not the employees. I remember keeping a sweater in my office for visiting the machine room that was kept at a chilly 55 so that the computers would not over heat. Adjusting the thermostat was a firing offense.

5 Chris Hoey 07.16.12 at 2:30 pm

This dovetails with the lead item about the NLRB’s outreach to non union employee protection under the NLRA in the Labor roundup above. If an employer takes action against two or more complaining employees, it’s a classic example of “protected concerted activity.” The employer need not accede to the employees requests about heat, but may not retaliate against the group making them without violating Section 8 (a)(1) of the Act.

6 Mark Gabel 07.18.12 at 1:10 am

My firm is actually defending a disability discrimination claim on this exact basis. The employee has MS, and her doctor prescribed a work environment at a specific temperature. She claims the workplace was too hot and the employer refused to provide a work area at the proper temperature. Facially valid claim under CA law.

It’s also worth noting that CA law actually specifically requires that employers provide for a comfortable temperature for certain categories of employees. Violations subject the employer to penalties under the state Labor Code Private Attorney General’s Act.

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