Editor’s note: Tracy Stuckrath is founder and chief connecting officer of thrive!, Atlanta.
It’s the first day of your company’s annual sale meeting for 25 people. While you ate a hearty breakfast at home before the meeting, you’re starving and ready for lunch. As you walk into the break room, you see that your boss’ administrative assistant ordered pizza for lunch.
Your stomach flips and your heart sinks. Pizza is not a safe or viable meal for you because you have celiac disease. What makes it worse is that despite the fact the pizza place she purchased from offers gluten-free pizza, she only ordered “regular” pizza and a large tossed salad. As you prepare to eat the salad, you read the ingredients on the salad dressing and find out it contains gluten. It will just be iceberg lettuce and a few tomatoes for lunch for you.
You feel very left out, overlooked and even hungrier than before. You’ve worked here for a few years and the office is not that big. You thought she knew better.
Did you know that celiac disease, food allergies and intolerances are considered invisible disabilities? People with celiac disease, diabetes and/or food allergies have the same protections afforded by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) as others with disabilities.
The ADA of 1990 defined a disability as any individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. The 2008 extension of the Act was written to add additional terminology to major life activities – eating, digestive system, immune system, cardiovascular system – and, in turn, providing civil rights protections for individuals with allergies, including food allergies and other dietary needs, like celiac disease. In an essence, it was updated to better recognize invisible disabilities.
These invisible disabilities affect many employees and it’s important to be mindful of them when p...