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As someone with severe food allergies, I know how difficult it can be to address your food allergies with new co-workers and peers in an assertive, yet informative way—especially when starting a new job in a completely unfamiliar environment. How can your place of work be inclusive of employees with severe food allergies?


In a perfect world, candidates would only be asked questions that are 100% legal. Unfortunately, job seekers have to deal with illegal interview questions all of the time. It’s very easy for an interviewer to go into those illegal areas without even realizing it. Sometimes, interviewers are untrained and don’t realize the error of their ways, and sometimes they just mess up. Related: Interview Hack: Document Everything! Either way, candidates should know their rights and responsibilities about what can and cannot be asked in an interview. Here’s a brief summary of topics that may come up during an interview, what can legally be asked, what can't, and how to handle illegal interview questions:


Going back to work with a disability can be daunting, but it can also be looked at in another way. One cannot deny that returning to the workplace while disabled can work as a great self-confidence booster and a self-supporting experience. A disabled employee can bring with himself a plethora of ideas, vigor, talent and skills, just like any regular employee can. Related: Should I Tell Them I’m Disabled In My Cover Letter? Organizations need to sensitize their staff regarding working with employees who might be facing a certain level mental or physical limitation due to whatever reason. Given the right kind of work environment, a disabled employee can prove to be as capable as any other employee. While it might not be easy for regular staff to work with a disabled colleague, it is important to remember that the situation is probably tougher for the latter as he needs to perform his duties with new limitations that he himself might be grappling to adjust to. Hence, it is crucial that organizations go the extra mile in helping the disabled employee feel accepted and comfortable at his workplace. Although disabled staff do not expect any sort of partial behavior from their employer towards them, they do look forward to certain disability-friendly arrangements being made so that they can single-mindedly focus on their work. Mentioned below are some of the ways in which organizations can meet the expectations of disabled staff returning to work.

Dear J.T. & Dale: After being injured on the job, I took a position as a construction safety manager. After surgery and recovery, I could no longer meet the physical requirements of the job. My workers' compensation claim and insurance have been turned down. I'm out of work and looking for a job. I've been in the safety field for 10 years, but I cannot meet the physical requirements of the jobs I'm qualified for. Should I state in my cover letter that I am disabled and say what my limitations are, or wait to discuss this during the interview? - Mike DALE: Sounds like a lousy deal, Mike. If you haven't consulted a disability attorney, it would be worth getting an opinion. However, you can't let legal possibilities distract you. Here is a good assumption for most problems in life: Help is NOT coming. But back to your question about when in the hiring process to reveal your disability: The timing probably won't change the outcome, not if you're unable to do the work. That said, it's always better to be screened out later rather than earlier; there's the chance that a hiring manager you meet in an interview could see something special in you, or even spot another position where you might fit into the organization. J.T.: That's a long shot, of course, and another case where you're better off sticking with the assumption that "help is not coming" and moving on to what you can control, which is professional reinvention. The challenge you face is typical of someone who's been injured: You're trying to fit skills into jobs that your disability won't allow you to do. Forget your training and work experience for a minute: What work can you physically do? Make a list of all your marketable skills and how many hours each day you could manage. From there, you can start to research roles that your skill set would accommodate. I'd check with your local staffing firms and Career OneStop (www.careeronestop.com) to seek advice. Once you find jobs that will work, it's time to start asking your network of family, friends and former co-workers if they know anyone in these fields. Your goal is to get informational interviews with people who have these jobs so you can learn what it will take to get hired. The process of professional reinvention isn't hard; it just takes some work to figure out what to look for. DALE: The good news is that the process of reinvention will, if done wisely, create a new network of industry contacts, and that will give you access to the so-called hidden job market, the one where you hear about jobs before they get posted. © 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
Feel free to send questions to J.T. and Dale at advice@jtanddale.com or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Thanks to the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, it's illegal to fire a worker just because she's pregnant. However, an employer isn't required to accommodate an employee's temporary needs during pregnancy. If an employer refuses to accommodate a pregnant employee, it can put her in the position where she has to choose between keeping her job or keeping her baby healthy. Since they are not technically disabled, pregnant workers are not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" for disabled employees. However, pregnant employees might have a glimmer of hope. According to the Huffington Post, politicians are working on passing something called the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which would require employers to accommodate their pregnant employees' needs within reason. The PWFA is not supported by everyone, however. Those not in favor of the act argue that it's an unnecessary burden on businesses that will decrease overall profits. What do you think? Should women be considered disabled while pregnant? Or should they be treated like every other employee until they go out of maternity leave? Please take our poll and tell us what you think in the comment section below! [poll id="51"] Image Credit: Shutterstock