Disabilities and Accommodations During the Pandemic Banner

Disability discrimination remains unlawful during the pandemic and employers still have an obligation to provide reasonable accommodations which do not create an undue economic burden for them.

If a pre-existing disability causes someone to be at a greater risk for COVID-19 and they request an accommodation, an employer is obligated to implement reasonable accommodations which do not result in undue hardship to the employer.  Reasonable accommodations should take into consideration CDC guidance or guidance from local health authorities. An employer may consider the circumstances of the pandemic in its determination as to whether the accommodation creates a financial hardship for them.

By way of example, reasonable accommodations which do not cause unduly burdensome expense for the employer may be appropriate under the following circumstances:

  • Employee has a preexisting anxiety disorder which is exacerbated by COVID-19.
  • Employee was working with reasonable accommodation before COVID-19 and needs an additional reasonable accommodation due to COVID-19.

What Is A Reasonable Accommodation?

  • Personal protective equipment.
  • Barriers separating an employee with a disability from co-workers or members of the public.
  • Work schedule modifications to decrease contact with coworkers or members of the public, such as staggered shifts.
  • Changing work location to provide for further social distancing, such as remote work.
  • Modification of non-essential work duties.

What Questions Can An Employer Ask?

  • Questions to determine if an employee has a disability.
  • How the disability limits the employee.
  • What accommodations the employee or his/her doctor propose.
  • How the proposed accommodations allow the employee to perform their essential job responsibilities.
  • What alternative accommodations the employee or his/her doctor would find acceptable.
  • That employee provide medical documentation.

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