From the desk of Lisa Mathess, M.A., SHRM-CP, Principal Consultant, ADA Specialist
Fall is underway here in West Virginia and that can mean the morning temperatures start in the 40s and rise to the 80s by the afternoon. While many love fall and the spontaneity it brings, this type of fluctuation in temperatures can be a nightmare for those with Raynaud’s syndrome as it can leave them with tingling fingertips and overall numbness for the remainder of their day. Raynaud's syndrome, sometimes called Raynaud's disease or phenomenon, is a rare condition that when exposed to cold temperatures or emotional stress, it causes the blood vessels to narrow resulting in numbness, tingling, and/or burning in one’s extremities. Most often it will affect a person’s fingers and toes, but can also affect the nose, ears, and lips. Minor fluctuations in temperature can cause people to have flare-ups. There are two main types of Raynaud’s, primary being a standalone disease and the cause is unknown. Secondary is known as Raynaud’s phenomenon and/or syndrome often stemming from a known primary disease, often lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Some employees with Raynaud’s disease may need workplace accommodations only during colder months or seasons that have extremes in temperatures. Common assistive technologies we often see with success for employees with Raynaud’s include: Heated Clothing, Heated Gloves, Heated Seat Cushions, Heated Ergonomic and Computer Products, and Workstation Space Heaters.
There are also many accommodation options that don’t include technology or specific products. Flexible scheduling often enables employees to work during the warmer times of day, when they will be most productive and without pain. Telework to permit employees to work at home or another location to limit weather exposure and allowing employees to have control of their thermostat often makes for a suitable work environment. Finally, redirecting ventilation systems, moving offices, and/or covering existing vents may be low-cost options that are highly-effective.
Here are some accommodation situations and solutions involving employees with Raynaud’s:
Situation: An advertising sales rep had Raynaud’s syndrome. The employee typically utilized public transportation, but during the winter months waiting for the bus in the cold caused her pain throughout her extremities.
Solution: The employee was accommodated with telework for winter months, enabling the employee to limit outdoor exposure and successfully work from her home.
Situation: An English professor with Raynaud’s disease had trouble getting to campus early in the morning due to body numbness.
Solution: The professor was permitted to schedule her classes in the afternoon and evening, which enabled her to teach when she felt her best.
Situation: A payroll processor with Raynaud’s syndrome was experiencing tingling in his fingertips due to the cold office temperatures.
Solution: The employer provided the employee with heated computer products and moved him to a private office where he could control the thermostat.
For more information about Raynaud’s disease, learn more at JAN's A to Z: By Disability.