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EEOC Issues Guidelines on Accommodations for COVID-19 Under the ADA

The EEOC updated their "What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws" on June 17, 2020. A major section of the article discusses reasonable accommodations under the ADA in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the guidelines, employers are required to engage in the interactive process with employees whose disability puts them at greater risk from COVID-19. It is important to note that the EEOC follows the CDC outline of medical conditions that are at an increased risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Not every disability qualifies for COVID-19 related accommodations. However, if you have a mental illness or disorder that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic you may also qualify for a reasonable accommodation from your employer, even though you are not at higher risk for COVID-19 medical complications. Additionally, unlike other recently passed laws, the ADA still applies to "critical infrastructure workers" or "essential critical workers."

I've had several questions about accommodations for workers with high-risk family members. Unfortunately at this time, the ADA does not require employers to provide accommodation for workers, who themselves do not have a disability, but request an accommodation to protect a family member.

What sort of COVID-19 accommodations can an employee request? The Job Accommodation Network has great COVID-19 resources for employees and guidance on what could be considered a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC listed the following examples of accommodations, absent undue hardships, in their guideline:

  • additional or enhanced protective gowns,

  • masks

  • gloves

  • or other gear beyond what the employer may generally provide

  • a barrier that provides separation between an employee with a disability and coworkers/public

  • increasing the space between an employee with a disability and others

  • elimination or substitution of particular "marginal" functions

  • temporary modification of work schedules to decrease contact with coworkers and/or the public when on duty or commuting

  • moving the location of where one performs work

  • teleworking

  • alternative methods of screening

  • modified protective gear

If you have requested a reasonable accommodation and your employer has refused to engage in the interactive process, you should consult an attorney right away to discuss your rights.

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