More Back to Work Thoughts: DOL Provides Tips on Accommodations Due to COVID-19

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As the country moves closer to fully opening businesses, the Department of Labor wants to remind all employers that their obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act are still in place for workers with disabilities. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a free service provided by the DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, published several strategies for businesses to implement creative solutions to allow workers with a disability to perform essential job duties. The publication is in response to increased requests from workers who have impairments that put them at higher risk for developing complications from COVID-19. Examples of those types of disabilities, according to the CDC, are people with cancer, chronic kidney disease, COPD, serious heart conditions, Type 2 diabetes and sickle cell anemia.

General Solutions for Limiting Possible Exposure

JAN recommends posting accurate information about how to prevent the spread of disease and suggests the use of a CDC infographic. They also suggest requiring employees to stay home if they exhibit symptoms of the illness. To encourage sick employees to stay home, JAN suggests that leave should be flexible. JAN also encourages workplaces to have employees wear a mask and educate their workers on proper mask care. Common spaces should be cleaned and disinfected frequently. Employers should also work with building maintenance to provide ventilation that reduces the risk of transmission.

In addition, you should implement social distancing measures. Stagger workstations and have a protective panel or shield between stations. You may need to restructure job duties to eliminate or reduce the frequency of tasks requiring face-to-face contact. Communications should be done using remote and virtual formats. Also, be mindful of hearing-impaired workers who may not be able to read lips through a mask.

JAN recommends trying to restructure jobs so that they can be done through telework or remotely. Employers should also try to stagger staffing so as to limit the number of employees in the workplace.

What If I Can’t Accommodate?

If an employer cannot provide the accommodations to reduce transmission or cannot allow an employee to work from home due to an undue hardship on the business, the employer should consider providing access to leave. JAN notes that some workers may be entitled to leave under the FFCRA or as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA (don’t forget about traditional FMLA either). 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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