Joseph Choe


My allergies used to be a huge problem.

I would have these awful sinus attacks that could knock me over for days at a time. My nose would drip like a leaky faucet, and in order to clear it, I’d have to make a thunderous noise that could reverberate throughout the building.

Now, allergies “used” to be a problem for me, because ever since I moved over two years ago, my allergies have largely subsided. I have no doubt that I still have allergies, they’ve only become less of a problem probably due to my current environment.

When I worked at an office though, my allergies would cause me numerous problems with my various employers. Why?

Dealing with my allergies meant I generated a good deal of noise, mostly from clearing my nose. However, this apparently caused serious enough disruptions, probably due to the open office layouts so many companies are enamored with, that several people complained about the noise.

Now keep in mind, if you’re not familiar with allergies, I am in severe discomfort every single time my allergies become a “problem”. Some people may be “annoyed” that I’m making so much noise, but I am miserable. I am in pain. I cannot breathe. That’s how bad allergies can become.

I was never shown any compassion for the pain I was suffering. I never had a sympathetic ear for my problem. Instead, I was told to stop making so much noise by many different supervisors at many different companies.

Believe me, I tried everything. I went to an allergist, I took medication, I even reserved small conference rooms for myself during particularly bad attacks. But then I was reprimanded.

I was told I could no longer use a particular conference room because another employee was going to be using it for her own medical reasons. So, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. I couldn’t sit out in the open office because I was “causing disruptions”. And I couldn’t schedule any conference rooms, because the management saw no need to take my medical needs into account and so refused to make accommodations. And they certainly weren’t going to tell the people who were complaining about the noise to shove it.

And this was repeated ad nauseam at every single company I worked for.

While I’m glad I no longer have to deal with allergies, one thing they have taught me about employers is that there are certain people at every company who are given preferential treatment. The management treats their concerns as their top priority.

But when I have an actual medical issue that I’m dealing with, no one at the company is my friend.

I take that lesson to heart every single day.