May 05, 2020

EEOC Provides More COVID-19 Guidance

On May 5th and May 7th, the U.S. EEOC posted updated guidance on employers’ obligations to provide reasonable accommodation under the ADA for at-risk employees in light of COVID-19. (See questions G.3. through G.5.)

In short, the guidance reminds employers that they may not use knowledge of an employee’s underlying medical condition as a reason to bar the employee from returning to work.  The CDC has identified certain underlying medical conditions that may place an individual at higher risk of complications from COVID-19.

The guidance addresses:

  1. What an employee needs to do in order to request a reasonable accommodation for an underlying medical condition that the CDC has identified puts him or her at higher risk.
  2.  What an employer should do if it has knowledge of an employee’s underlying medical condition.
  3. What are some examples of reasonable accommodations an employer may provide to eliminate the employee’s direct threat of harm to him or herself or others.

Practical Tips:

  • Don’t assume. Just because an employee is older, pregnant or has some underlying medical condition, don’t take an adverse employment action – such as not letting the employee return to work – on that basis alone.
  •  Engage your employee in an interactive dialogue.  Provide the employee with a copy of the job description (that hopefully is well drafted and includes a description of the essential functions of the job, including physical requirements). Ask the employee to provide a copy to his or her attending physician and have the physician provide information as to what reasonable accommodation(s) the employee needs to perform the essential functions. Then, determine if you can provide any of those reasonable accommodations. If not, be able to explain why none of the requested accommodations are reasonable for your company, for that job at that location.
  •  Click here for the EEOC’s additional guidance on determining whether an accommodation is reasonable or imposes an undue hardship.