Second Circuit: OSHA Compliance Overrides ADA Accommodation Protections


All Employers subject to the ADA in CT, NY, VT


June 9, 2021


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In Bey v. City of New York, the Second Circuit Court of Appeal stated that because OSHA regulations require a clean-shaven face when wearing a self-contained breathing apparatus (i.e., respirator), the firefighter plaintiffs with severe skin conditions could not be accommodated by allowing a small amount of facial hair growth.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must make “reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual” unless the employer “can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of [its] business.” The court here stated that “[a]n accommodation is not reasonable within the meaning of the ADA if it is specifically prohibited by a binding safety regulation promulgated by a federal agency.” Because OSHA’s regulation prohibits the accommodation the firefighters were seeking, they were not protected by the ADA under the circumstances.

Action Items

  1. Review grooming and safety policies for compliance.
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