Navigating Employment and Accommodations: EEOC Updates on COVID-19 and Anti-Discrimination Laws
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recently made several updates to its COVID-19 technical assistance document titled “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.” These updates include adding a new question-and-answer section addressing the conclusion of the federal declaration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows stated that this update serves as the final component of their comprehensive resource, which addresses various questions related to COVID-19 and the anti-discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC. She emphasized the importance of understanding how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and other federal laws continue to safeguard employees from employment discrimination as the public health emergency ends. The EEOC remains dedicated to actively enforcing these laws.
Key updates highlighted in the document are as follows:
1. Termination of Reasonable Accommodations: The conclusion of the COVID-1ee9 public health emergency does not grant employers automatic authority to terminate reasonable accommodations that were initially provided due to pandemic-related circumstances. However, employers can review accommodations granted during the public health emergency and, in consultation with the employees, assess whether there is still a need for reasonable accommodation based on individualized circumstances.
2. Reasonable Accommodations for Long COVID: The updates provide examples of possible reasonable accommodations for employees experiencing Long COVID. These accommodations include access to a quiet workspace, use of noise-canceling devices, uninterrupted worktime to address cognitive challenges, adjustments to lighting to alleviate headaches, rest breaks to manage joint pain or shortness of breath, flexible schedules or telework options to combat fatigue, and removal of physically strenuous “marginal functions” that may worsen shortness of breath. Many of these accommodations are low-cost or cost-free.
3. Preventing COVID-Related Harassment: The updates also offer guidance to employers on remaining vigilant against COVID-related harassment towards applicants or employees who have a disability-related need to continue wearing face masks or follow other COVID-19 precautions in the workplace.
These updates aim to provide both employees and employers with a clearer understanding of their rights and responsibilities concerning COVID-19 and employment, ensuring that workplace discrimination is actively addressed and prevented.
Click here to learn more about what you should know about COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and other EEO laws.
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