Technically, I'm asking this on behalf of my wife.

She suffers from a condition called Raynaud syndrome, a medical condition where her toes, feet and sometimes fingers will turn ghostly white due to a restriction of blood flow to these members. The episodes are usually brought on by cold and stress, both of which are abundant at her office.

My wife wears wool socks at her desk to keep her toes warm, but often still suffers from feeling cold, and her Raynaud "attacks" are becoming more frequent and intense as of late. We've been to several doctors regarding this in the last few weeks and her Primary Care doctor just gave her a doctors note instructing that she keep a space heater at her desk to keep her feet warm.

However, her workplace has a strict no space-heater policy, and is already reluctant to allow her to have one. In fact it appears to be a policy enforced by the building owners (our company rents the building).

My question is, does her company have a legal obligation to allow her to have a space heater?

EDIT: We live and work in the state of Indiana, the United States.

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    She may want to look into electric socks – Dan Pichelman May 4 '18 at 14:52
  • Legal obligation would be a legal question so VTC. I doubt she is covered by disabilities act but maybe? adata.org/faq/what-definition-disability-under-ada I suggest you as to have this migrated to legal. – paparazzo May 4 '18 at 15:24
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    Space heaters are generally forbidden because of their high current draw on offices not wired for them. No doctor's note will every require an employer to make a work environment unsafe. – Wesley Long May 4 '18 at 16:12
  • Electric Blanket? – Neo May 4 '18 at 17:07
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    They sell heated footrests now that elevate the feet and legs, improve circulation, draw less power and are overall safer than space heaters. If the building owner (forget the employer) has banned space heaters, you will probably not be able to circumvent that. – CKM May 4 '18 at 17:46

You may think a space heater is a reasonable accommodation. It's possible that the building wiring is not adequate for space heaters, and using one could be dangerous.

The company has an obligation to make a reasonable accommodation. It is certainly reasonable to ask for a space heater. But be open to other options as well.

From the Indiana Fire and Building Code, it looks like there are both state and local requirements that may be in play. And of course, it depends on how well the building is constructed, its age (older buildings are often grandfathered, but are not as able to handle additional electrical loads), and perhaps the lease agreement.

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    +1 for second paragraph, it may be illegal for them to allow you to get a space heater but they must compensate for this in some way thats appropriate if so. – Leon May 4 '18 at 14:32
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    +1 You may consider editing your post to include references to fire codes. It there is a relevant fire code, then it is not reasonable to expect accommodation that violates fire code, or any safety code. – Old_Lamplighter May 4 '18 at 14:35
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    This could true. Someone put a heater in our office and it blew a fuse in one of the junction boxes and killed the power to every computer on that spur. Heaters suck up a lot of juice. – user44108 May 4 '18 at 14:36
  • big plastic bottles If she has access to hot water she can fill a couple of bottles with it and get some relief. She can also use a small blanquet to prolongue the relief. Note its easier to get it because if you do have coffe in your office you can have hot water – jean May 4 '18 at 17:19
  • In particular, the NFPA gives authority-having jurisdictions, I would imagine in this case the building owners, complete control over banning space heaters based on past events like fires, injuries, damages or even units left on overnight. There are other options, now, some perhaps better than space heaters like heated footrests. – CKM May 4 '18 at 17:48

My question is, does her company have a legal obligation to allow her to have a space heater?

Probably not.

If the company and/or building owner doesn't permit space heaters due to safety regulations, then a doctor's note cannot override that. Consult your attorney if you want a more precise interpretation of the relevant local laws.

Your wife should:

  • talk to her doctor and determine if there is an alternative course of treatment which doesn't require a space heater.
  • update her resume in case there is no alternative treatment for her condition. Her health is worth more than this job. She should look for a new job where she won't be as cold.
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