December 14, 2021

EEOC Publishes Broader Guidance on ADA & COVID-19

That’s how they describe it.  You may have read that on July 26, 2021, two federal agencies published guidance on legal protections under the ADA and Federal Rehabilitation Act for individuals with “long” COVID.  On December 14th, the EEOC published their own comparing it to the preceding as focusing “more broadly on COVID-19 and [doing] so in the context of Title I of the ADA and section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, which cover employment.”

While the information may not be new. it includes some good reminders for employers.

Remember that a person can be protected under the ADA if the person has a present, past or perceived disability.  So, watch the speculation, gossip, and grapevine. Remind managers and supervisors to not discuss an employee’s medical condition with coworkers.

Remember, the ADA prohibits discrimination based on association although reasonable accommodation is not required. For example, an employee without a disability is not entitled under the ADA to telework as an accommodation in order to protect a family member with a disability from potential COVID-19 exposure. But, if you have granted other employees with telework options and deny this employee, it could give the appearance of discrimination based on association. (see Q D.13)

Every instance requires an “individualized assessment.” So, don’t disregard an employee’s expression of concern as insignificant. Where an employee’s disability or need for accommodation is not known or obvious, engage the employee in an interactive dialogue to learn more about the employee’s limitations and the cause.

The ADA’s requirements about disability-related inquiries and medical exams, medical confidentiality, retaliation, and interference apply to all applicants and employees, regardless of whether they have an ADA disability.

Click here to read the full Q & A (14 Questions).