U.S. COVID-19: Returning High Risk Employees To The Workplace: Best Intentions Could Be Bad News For Employers
May 12, 2020
Authored by: Patrick DePoy and Lily Kurland
Employers preparing to reopen their places of business have many logistical considerations, including compliance with state and local health orders relating to face coverings, temperature and wellness screenings, and other measures designed to help keep employees healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) updated its own “Return to Work” guidance by adding Q&A guidance on how employers should handle a “high risk” employee, i.e., an employee with an existing and known disability that may make the employee more susceptible to severe illness from COVID-19. The guidance is a helpful reminder to employers that even actions taken with the best of intentions may not comply with legal obligations and restrictions. Below are three important questions for employers to consider in light of the EEOC’s updated guidance.
How does the Interactive Process Apply to COVID-Related Requests for Accommodation?
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”), employers are obligated to consider requests from a disabled employee for reasonable accommodations to the employee’s work environment that would permit him or her to perform the essential functions of the job. While the EEOC’s earlier guidance addressed the nuts and bolts of the “interactive process” during the pandemic generally (including the timeframe in which employers should respond to requests for accommodation and what qualifies as an “undue hardship” during the pandemic), many employers were left questioning how the outbreak of COVID-19 would impact their