Part II: More COVID-19 FAQs on Federal Employment Laws
COVID-19 and employment is a hot topic today. A lot is going on, and the questions that the Goldman & Ehrlich team are receiving are good ones that should be addressed. In our second round of COVID-19 FAQs, we dive deeper into how COVID-19 is affecting other types of federal laws that provide employees protection.
How Do the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the New COVID-19 Laws Interact?
The ADA provides employees with certain rights when they have disabilities. Specifically, employers are not permitted to discriminate against workers who have disabilities, and the employer is required to make reasonable accommodations to ensure that those who have disabilities can function well in the workplace.
While the ADA is still in full effect throughout the country, ADA requirements should not interfere with how the CDC and other health authorities are requiring employers to react to health and safety requirements. For example, employers can if properly done, have you submit to temperature taking and ask if you have any of the known COVID symptoms. This must be done in a confidential manner, however. Only a designated person, such as a company nurse or designated HR person, should be asking those questions in a private setting, including asking whether or not you have been exposed to COVID-19 or contracted COVID-19.
Some employees are at a higher risk of getting COVID-19 because of their disability status, including certain underlying medical conditions. Employers are required to provide you with reasonable accommodations, if possible, to allow you to work in a safe manner. These reasonable accommodations may include being able to work from home, creating separation at work, or allowing you to use sick leave as necessary. Working remotely assumes that your job can be performed remotely.
How Do COVID-19 Laws and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Interact?
OSHA requires employers to provide a safe workplace for you.
OSHA requires that employers provided personal protective equipment (PPE) to employees if necessary to have a safe workplace. In some situations, employers who were never required to provide staff with PPE may now need to do so to ensure that everyone is safe. This is especially true if creating at least six feet of space between employees is not possible.
OSHA also requires employers to track injuries, which can apply to those employees who may have gotten COVID-19 because of exposure at work. OSHA also imposes a “catch-all” duty on employers to create a safe space for employees. In the context of COVID-19, that can imply that employers are required to follow CDC guidelines regarding things like handwashing, using hand sanitizer, using masks, and social distancing.
To learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting employees and employers in the Chicago area, contact our team. You have rights as employees in this difficult time, and we can help you assert them.