Over a year ago, I worked as a campaign manager for an Oregon State House seat. Campaign managers are known for having to work crazy hours scheduling events and speaking engagements for the candidate, coordinating the solicitation of donors, canvassing the district and organizing volunteers. The challenging schedule can make it difficult to make time to eat and at some points even sleep.
During my interview with the candidate, she asked if I had any food allergies or sensitivities? I’d never been asked this type of question during a job interview. The question both put me at ease and made me uncomfortable. It didn’t seem like an unreasonable question as the candidate and campaign manager spend a great deal of time together throughout the campaign, including eating meals.
Of course I said yes and told her I am allergic to nickel which is found in many foods. However my food allergy does not cause me to go into anaphylaxis should I eat something with nickel. She then disclosed that her husband recently was diagnosed with a conditioned that required him to ingest as little sodium as possible. It was nice to relate to this potential employer and not be penalized for actually having a food allergy.
As food allergies and sensitivities become more visible and awareness increases, it seems like inquiring about a job candidate’s food allergies could be part of regular discussion. This fact could be a double edge sword. I don’t think of my food allergy as a disability that would be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
I manage my food allergy pretty well and I don’t require a lot of accommodation. I also always bring my lunch to work and check out a restaurant’s menu before choosing a place to eat out at. Just like anyone else I make requests for certain food items I enjoy and can eat when the office provides birthday treats. If co-workers buy treats with ingredients I cannot eat, I frankly don’t participate.
When work and food dominate our daily lives it can be tricky to navigate the various ways our lives overlap. I only hope that my food allergy won’t disqualify me from getting a job I really desire in the future.