May 15, 2023
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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently updated its “What You Should Know” Guidance for employers about COVID-19 in the workplace. “This installment is the capstone to our comprehensive resource of questions and answers on COVID-19 and the anti-discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. While there are no major changes to the guidance, the following are key changes to note.
First, the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency does not mean employers can automatically terminate reasonable accommodations that were provided due to pandemic-related circumstances. However, employers may evaluate accommodations granted during the public health emergency, and, in consultation with the employee, assess whether there continues to be a need for reasonable accommodation based on individualized circumstances. This highlights the need to continue to engage in the interactive process to assess employee needs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act.
Second, for employees with Long COVID, the updates include common examples of possible reasonable accommodations, including a quiet workspace, use of noise cancelling devices, and uninterrupted worktime to address brain fog; alternative lighting and reducing glare to address headaches; rest breaks to address joint pain or shortness of breath; a flexible schedule or telework to address fatigue; and removal of “marginal functions” that involve physical exertion to address shortness of breath. Many of these are low or no-cost accommodations. The Job Accommodation Network has information on a variety of possible reasonable accommodations to address specific symptoms of Long COVID.
Finally, the updates include tips about remaining alert for COVID-related harassment of applicants or employees with a disability-related need to continue wearing a face mask or take other COVID-19 precautions at work. For example, one illustration might show a coworker harassing an employee with a disability-related need to wear a mask or take other COVID-19 precautions. Another illustration might show a supervisor or coworker harassing an employee who is receiving a religious accommodation to forgo mandatory vaccination. Employers should immediately review any allegations of harassment or discrimination and take appropriate action.
While this guidance continues to be helpful for employer obligations under federal law, employers should still also adhere to any state and local requirements regarding COVID-19.
- Review the updated guidance here.
- Have policies and procedures updated as applicable.
- Subscribers can call our HR On-Call Hotline at (888) 378-2456 for further assistance.
Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser. © 2023 ManagEase