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Cater Lunch for Employees

Question: We’d like to cater lunch for employees. Do we need to ask them about food allergies?

Answer from Margaret, PHR, SHRM-CP: No. However, employees who do have food allergies or restrictions would likely appreciate it if you made sure that they also get to partake of the free food. You can manage this by asking employees about food preferences or prohibitions ahead of time, ordering a variety of items so that everyone has at least one option, and listing the ingredients of the items that are brought in. Most restaurants should be able to accommodate a request for ingredient lists.

We would caution against asking specifically about food allergies since this could potentially rise to the level of a disability inquiry under the Americans with Disabilities Act, which could be unlawful in this instance. By asking generally about food preferences and prohibitions, you can accommodate not only employees who may have food allergies and sensitivities, but also employees who are vegetarian, vegan, or have religious restrictions on what they can eat.

This Q&A does not constitute legal advice and does not address state or local law.

Margaret holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Portland State University and a Professional Certificate in Human Resources Management. She has worked in a variety of HR roles in a multi-state capacity. Margaret regularly attends seminars and other continuing education courses to stay current with new developments and changes that affect the workplace and is active in local and national Human Resources organizations.

Legal Disclaimer: On-Time Payroll is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this post should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. OTP cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.


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