The COVID pandemic has created unprecedented change in our lives and the workplace is no exception. Employers have had to scramble to meet accommodation requests in an unsure and novel environment. One of my favorite websites, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has published strategies for employers to implement creative solutions to allow disabled workers to perform their essential job duties, whether in the office or remotely. JAN’s advice is a great resource. It provides guidance to employer’s regarding workers who have disabilities that place them at higher risk for developing complications from COVID-19.
General Solutions for Limiting Exposure
JAN suggests employers take steps to limit exposure to COVID-19 for their employees. These steps include educating the workforce on CDC guidelines on limiting exposure, requiring employees exhibiting symptoms of illness to stay home, and providing protective equipment. JAN also suggests employers limit the need to touch communal surfaces and whether or not electronic doors, touchless faucets, or other touchless devices could be installed. Employers should also clean and disinfect routinely and if in an office building, work with their building management to provide effective air filters and ventilation.
Solutions to Physical Distancing Needs
JAN directs employers to establish physical distancing policies and use signage, floor markers, and other visual aids to remind employees about distancing requirements. Employers should also limit the number of employers allowed in break rooms, kitchens, and other communal spaces. Employers should also restructure job duties and expectations to limit face-to-face contact. Employers should modify work schedules and implement policies regarding telework. For employers who cannot allow telework, they should properly distance work spaces and consider installing protective panels or shields.
Address Communication Needs
Employers must remain cognizant of varying communication needs when implementing policies to combat the spread of COVID-19. This includes allowing various communication tools, conducting meetings and trainings utilizing virtual meeting platforms, and limiting the number of people allowed to attend in-person meetings. Employers should also consider the needs of employees who read lips and make necessary changes to mask requirements.
If the changes JAN provided cannot sufficiently limit the risk of exposure to COVID-19, JAN urges employers to consider providing certain employees with either telework opportunities or leave in accordance with existing laws and employer leave policies.