Barb Wilkie's EHN Website
Last updated 2008

EHN Board President Barb Wilkie was very ill from chemically-induced kidney disease for several years. She passed away May 31, 2011. EHN presents this site both as a tribute and as valuable information. Many links and references will be out of date but Barb's research holds up over time. We will be transferring the site page by page, with updated details, to EHN's main site. If you would like to reach an EHN staff person, please contact us directly.


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Suggestions for Accommodation in the Workplace

The following suggestions were developed by me, based on my own common sense and some recommendations of JAN (Job Accommodation Network -, and with the assistance of a representative of the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at

Since the days of my experiences in being denied accommodation, both JAN and the EEOC have brought forth new documents.

JAN -- March 2008: JAN's Accommodation Ideas for Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or
Environmental Illness

This is a page containing links to specific information. Go to it and learn! -- barb
Work Site Accommodations: A Symposium for Employers
September 22-23, 2003, Rosslyn, VA

"New Workplace Accommodation Challenges for the 21st Century"
Presented by
Mandy J. Gamble, MS, CRC & Tracie D. Sabb, MS
Human Factors Consultants; Job Accommodation Network
A Service of U.S. DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy
This is a great page of information, but for those of us living with the disabiling effects of fragrance sensitization, use your Find Command to drop right to their section on Fragrance Sensitivity.
Alas, in March 2008, I cannot now find anything on fragrances in this document. However,
it may have been replaced byAccommodation and Compliance Series, below. -- barb


"Work-Site Accommodation Ideas for Individuals Who Experience Limitations Due to Chemical Sensitivity or Environmental Illness (EI)" (

"Work-Site Accommodation Ideas for Individuals with Fragrance Sensitivity "

"Accommodating the Allergic Employee in the Workplace"


"Requesting Reasonable Accommodation"

As with everything else I had previously tried in my workplace, the suggestions in the following memo were turned down out of hand by my employer.

With equal disdain the Human Resources Manager also dismissed Sen. Milton Marks' suggestions in Access for People with Environmental Illness/Multiple Chemcial Sensitivity and Other Related Conditions, a document published by the California state senate and available for you at

With a meant-to-be-obvious sniff, the HR manager stated: "It has not been peer-reviewed!" Pathetic! Access for People ..., was only published by the California state senate. Please visit the document, print it out, use it. It has excellent advice. Of course, I sincerely hope you have an excellent management team willing to work with you toward cleaner, safer air for you, which will, in turn, benefit all staff.

This -- my last -- request for accommodation was turned into the HR manager in May 1997 and the next month I was ostracized -- railroaded, if you please -- to two floors away from fellow staff with whom I was supposed to work.

I love irony. Good thing, for that kept me going. Down through the years, my employer had steadfastly refused to allow me to telecommute during critical maintenance projects because "each and every employee is so valuable to the agency at all times." They forced me to use my accrued vacation and/or sickleave hours during their major rehabs, thereby guaranteeing I'd NOT be available to staff in any way. But, they trumped their own ace, so to speak, when they banished me to an office two floors away from my colleagues. The only way I could effectively function was to develop my own means of telecommuting within the agency. I am, if nothing else, tenacious and resourceful.

As the office to which I was ostracized was even more toxic for my already-chemically-injured-in-the-workplace body (OSHA, take note on behalf of all OSHA-covered workers), my health deteriorated to the point that I had to take early retirement in October 1998.

I sincerely hope someone, somewhere, can benefit from the following suggestions for accommodation, and the other information appearing on EHN's website.

The thing to keep in mind is that no one can be too smug about not getting MCS. I firmly believe that the steps you and your employer take today to improve air quality will serve you and all staff better in all of your tomorrows.

And, please remember, when one thinks air quality, think indoors as well as out of doors. Our government agencies dwell on outdoor air quality, but according to the US EPA, most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors . . . and indoor air is 2 - 5 times more polluted than outdoor air! And, the EPA goes on to state that depending upon the project, indoor air can be 1000 times more polluted than outdoor air. (I bet that that was the case when twice within one week in February 1997 my workplace did roofing sealant work during core hours, sending those toxins -- which included reproductive toxins -- throughout the workplace.)

It is in improving the indoor air quality that we can make great strides, with very little effort, to eliminate superfluous toxins. Often, it is just a matter of making purchases of safer, less toxic consumer products, while using safer, cleaner methods of grooming, cleaning and pest control. They do exist.
-- barb



May 10, 1997

To: [Human Resources Manager]

Fr: Barbara Wilkie

Re: My Request for Reasonable Accommodations

My medical file contains documents that give the diagnosis of chemical-induced asthma and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Asthma and MCS are permanent disabilities. I am to work as fragrance- and chemical-free as possible. I can remain functional with certain accommodations, which will ultimately benefit all staff. Under the guidelines for Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the following would do well to satisfy my requests for accommodation:

1) Fragrance-free meetings. I offer the following language for all invitations extended for meetings and other activities hosted by XXX: Due to chemical sensitivity of our employees, please refrain from wearing any cologne, hair spray or gel, perfume, or any other fragrance-emitting products. Your cooperation is appreciated.

I would be satisfied if such a phrase could routinely be added to all invitations to all meetings and functions.


2) Continue to encourage staff to work fragrance-free. There are fragrance-free personal grooming products readily available. Also, develop a "DON'T do it yourself!" policy for pesticide and air freshener spraying by staff.


3) Provide all-staff training on the subject of MCS and how it affects the lives of those who have it and those who live and work with people who have MCS.


4) Limit the use of pesticide applications with a goal of moving toward implementing integrated pest management (IPM) practices.


5) Provide fragrance-free products -- such as detergent, soap and lotion -- for staff's use at the kitchen sinks and in the restrooms.


6) Provide a telecommute option for the times the agency has applied chemical substances that my body cannot tolerate. Limited telecommuting privileges could be a special accommodation for my needs and granted under the ADA for those times chemicals are pervasive in the building. I can function normally, with minimal ill effects, if I am allowed to telecommute just one or two days after each such chemical event.

If the above is not possible, I request to take one or two days sick leave after each chemical- releasing incident. I will endeavor to make up any missed work upon my return.
[Note: The EEOC representative insisted that this line HAD to be included.]


7) Ensure that janitorial products are fragrance-free. Also, have the janitorial staff refrain from applying deodorants or air freshener products in any restroom in the building.


8) Begin an educational campaign and policy development to encourage the entire building (under the auspices of YYYY) to become more sensitive to indoor air quality (IAQ) issues and to take steps to improve IAQ.


9) Continue to alert all staff of agency actions that may affect IAQ and continue to schedule odorous chemical work after core hours. Place warning signs in areas of chemical outgassing.


I have been a productive member of XXX since 1975 and would like to continue to be one. I did not ask for this condition I have and I don't expect someone who doesn't have it to understand it as I do. Please try to imagine yourself being frequently exposed at work to an ear-splitting noise. How long could you continue to regularly attend work and to accomplish what's expected of you?

I believe I am not asking for anything unreasonable. If you cannot comply with my request, kindly explain why.







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The Environmental Health Network (EHN) [of California] is a 501 (c) (3) non profit agency and offers support and information for the chemically injured. Learn from the work of Julia Kendall, get The BEST of the Reactor, join EHN and receive The New Reactor. See what influence the Chemical Manufacturers have had against those of us with EI. The URL for EHN's homepage is