Woman Claims She Lost A Hospital Job Over Her Peanut Allergy
Kameela Coleman of Dorchester told WCVB that the job offer she had was rescinded when two officers of Boston Children's Hospital told her, "We can't provide a safe working environment." She replied that she wasn't looking for a safe environment, just her job.
Coleman had worked at nearby Beth Israel hospital for 13 years. Although she admitted experiencing some minor allergy incidents, she said they never interfered with her duties or required time off.
Coleman carries an epinephrine auto-injector, a device that can quickly inject epinephrine, a medical term for adrenaline, which is the immediate treatment for dangerous allergic reactions.
According to Coleman, the work she would have done would be similar to what she did at Beth Israel, only with better hours. When she received a written job offer three weeks ago, it was contingent on her filling out a health form.
Because she gave notice at her previous job to take the new one, Coleman, a single mother of an 18-month-old, is now unemployed with no health insurance. According to a statement that WCVB received from Children's Hospital, the provider is "working closely" with Coleman to "come to a mutual understanding around this situation." There is a question whether a peanut allergy might come under the American with Disabilities Act, which protects employees who might face discrimination over medical issues. The hospital denied that it discriminates based on disabilities.
The irony is that any medical facility catering to children should have an environment safe for peanut allergies. According to the Mayo Clinic, peanut allergies are especially common in children and are one of the most frequent causes of anaphylaxis, a life-threatening medical condition in which the airways and throat swell and blood pressure drops. As the Mayo Clinic website explains:
Schools in the U.S. frequently forbid parents from providing their children with lunches that contain peanuts or peanut butter when one or more students have severe peanut allergies. Milder allergies can become more severe with repeated exposure over time.
Peanut allergy symptoms can range from a minor irritation to a life-threatening reaction (anaphylaxis). For some people with peanut allergy, even tiny amounts of peanuts can cause a serious reaction.
According to Food Allergy Research and Education, peanut allergies tripled in children between 1997 and 2008. Although 20 percent of children with peanut allergies eventually outgrow them, the remaining people have lifelong problems. Even touching peanuts or peanut residue can cause a reaction.