At-Risk Employee Accommodations During COVID-19

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Know What Employee Accommodation Obligations You Have to Your At-Risk Employees During COVID-19

More than 2 million people in the United States have already tested positive for the coronavirus. With states across the country lifting restrictions and businesses reopening their doors to the public, at-risk employees have more to worry about when returning to work than healthy individuals. When it comes to COVID-19, older adults and those who have serious medical conditions could be at a higher risk for contracting severe COVID-19 symptoms. Employers are questioning what they can and need to do for at-risk employees.

At Employer Support Services, we’re informing business owners of their legal obligations to at-risk employees. If you have additional questions regarding your employees, reach out to us and let us help you navigate the post-COVID-19 landscape.

 

Who is Considered an At-Risk Employee?Image of an employee wearing a face mask during COVID-19 at work

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has outlined which groups of people are considered high-risk for contracting COVID-19. Generally speaking, older adults and those who have severe previous health conditions are considered at-risk. They include:

  • People 65 years and older
  • People who live in a nursing home or care facility
  • Those who have chronic lung disease
  • Those who have moderate to severe asthma
  • People who have heart conditions
  • People who are immunocompromised
  • Those who are obese (body mass index of 40 or higher)
  • People with diabetes
  • People with chronic kidney disease
  • People with liver disease

If any of your employees have any of the above conditions, they may ask for reasonable accommodations to reduce exposure to COVID-19. It is important to be considerate and find solutions that work for both you and your at-risk employees.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Updates for At-Risk Employees

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) upholds anti-discrimination laws in the workplace, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, among other laws. The EEOC recently updated its information regarding at-risk employee accommodations to account for the COVID-19 outbreak. Here is some crucial information for employers:

Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace

  • Employees can request reasonable accommodations for the workplace if they are at greater risk for COVID-19.
  • Employers can provide accommodations with materials they already have to reduce the chances of exposure.
  • Employers can deny an accommodation and find an alternative if it poses an undue hardship (significant difficulty or expense) as defined by the EEOC.
  • Employees and employers should be flexible when dealing with accommodations. Temporary job restructuring or job transfers may be options for an individual who is at greater risk.

 

What You Can Discuss with Your At-Risk EmployeesImage of a woman at the workplace

Many people feel additional stress and anxiety during these uncertain times. However, that is not necessarily a valid reason for accommodation. As an employer, you can discuss information with your employee to ensure they need reasonable accommodations due to medical conditions.

[Related: What to Do if Employees are Afraid to Come to Work]

You can request medical documentation to determine whether the employee’s disability requires accommodations. You may also discuss with the requesting employee:

  • How the condition or disability creates a limitation
  • How the requested accommodation will effectively address the limitation
  • Whether other accommodations could address the issue
  • How the accommodation will allow the employee to perform the function of the position

 

Deciding Upon Accommodations for At-Risk Employees

Employers can enact or provide a wide variety of reasonable accommodations to employees who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The EEOC defines a modification or adjustment as reasonable if it appears to be feasible or plausible and allows the employees to perform the essential functions of the position.

An employer may consider the following adjustments provided by the EEOC when deciding upon an accommodation for an employee:

  • Making existing facilities accessible
  • Job restructuring
  • Part-time modified work schedules
  • Acquiring or modifying equipment
  • Changing tests, training materials, or policies
  • Providing qualified readers or interpreters
  • Reassignment to a vacant position

Work with your employee to find a reasonable accommodation that works for both the employee and the company.

Contact Employer Support Services for More Help

If you are having trouble accommodating employees during COVID-19 or you’re experiencing another human resource problem, contact us today. We are helping business owners just like you get through these difficult times with a variety of solutions. Contact us today and see what we can do for you.

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