Federal agencies among other employers may be obligated to provide accommodations including additional personal protective equipment, changes to work duties and physical changes to the workplace for certain employees as they return to work as pandemic-related restrictions are lifted, the EEOC has said.
The guidance is the latest in a series on issues related to the Americans With Disabilities Act and other laws EEOC enforces for the federal workplace and elsewhere, focusing on the employer’s obligation to provide “reasonable accommodation” for employees at higher risk of serious illness from covid-19 as defined by the CDC.
Those conditions include chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, serious heart conditions, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and liver disease. Also considered at high risk are those who are pregnant, over age 65 or immunocompromised.
The new guidance says that an employee or a third party such as the employee’s doctor may ask for an accommodation either in writing or in conversation and that the employer may ask questions or seek medical documentation to judge whether the person is eligible for an accommodation—which must then be provided unless it would be an “undue hardship” on the employer.
The EEOC said that accommodations could include, but are not limited to (in its words):
* additional or enhanced protective gowns, masks, gloves, or other gear beyond what the employer may generally provide to employees returning to its workplace;
* additional or enhanced protective measures, for example, erecting a barrier that provides separation between an employee with a disability and coworkers/the public or increasing the space between an employee with a disability and others;
* elimination or substitution of particular “marginal” functions (less critical or incidental job duties as distinguished from the “essential” functions of a particular position;
* temporary modification of work schedules (if that decreases contact with coworkers and/or the public when on duty or commuting) or moving the location of where one performs work (for example, moving a person to the end of a production line rather than in the middle of it if that provides more social distancing).