The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said that when an employer permits employees to telework to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19, the employer has not committed itself to automatically granting telework as a reasonable accommodation to every employee with a disability who requests to continue this arrangement as an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
But, here’s the thing.
Hey, before I get into “the thing,” I want to thank you for the incredible response to “Mandatory Vaccinations At Work Just Got Real!” That’s what I’m calling the Zoom on Friday, September 17, 2021, at Noon EDT. I’ve assembled a panel of five employment attorneys to address everything relating to President Biden’s new vaccination/testing mandate.
Since I announced the Zoom last week, we’ve had over 1,000 signups!!! But you can get in on it too.
Ok, let’s say that the employer starts bringing people back to the office. If that employer allows individuals without disabilities to continue to work remotely, then the employer should treat a similarly-situated worker with a disability the same way.
Case in point.
Last week, the EEOC announced that it had sued an employer because it allegedly denied its employee’s reasonable request for an accommodation for her disability and then fired her for requesting it.
According to the EEOC’s suit, the company required its employees to work remotely four days per week from March 2020 through June 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The EEOC further alleges that when the employer re-opened its facility in June 2020, an immunocompromised employee with a pulmonary condition requested an accommodation to work remotely two days per week and take frequent breaks while working onsite. But, the company supposedly rejected this accommodation request — even though it allegedly allowed other employees in the same position to work from home.
The EEOC further alleged that the company terminated the employee for performance reasons even though she helped increase employee training facility-wide by over 15% in the months leading to her employment separation.
This case represents the first lawsuit the EEOC has filed about a request for an ADA accommodation related to COVID-19.
I’ll keep you updated on the outcome. In the meantime, proceed with caution when immunocompromised individuals request accommodations during this pandemic.
The same goes for people with COVID-19 and those who are recovering from related side effects.
The EEOC announced last week that it recognizes that “long COVID” may be an ADA disability in certain circumstances, concurring with the Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice in their “Guidance on ‘Long COVID’ as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557.” EEOC technical assistance about COVID-19 and ADA “disability” in the employment context will be released in the coming weeks.