EEOC Updates What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws

On Thursday afternoon, April 9, 2020, the EEOC issued expanded guidance on a variety of COVID-19-related workplace issues in a question and answer format. The expanded guidance clarifies issues regarding acceptable inquiries regarding COVID-19 symptoms, employer responsibilities regarding confidentiality of medical information obtained from employees, and duty to accommodate disabilities, including mental health issues, during the pandemic. The expanded guidance can be found at:

https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/wysk/wysk_ada_rehabilitaion_act_coronavirus.cfm

Some key points from the expanded guidance include:

  • When screening employees entering the workspace, employers may ask employees about COVID-19 related symptoms identified by the EEOC, the CDC, other public health authorities, or other reputable medical sources for guidance on emerging symptoms associated with the disease because the list of associated symptoms is subject to change.
  • Employers may store COVID-19 related medical files, including statements of employees, in existing medical files, separate from personnel files, as long as confidentiality requirements are met.
  • Logs of daily temperature checks, if kept, must be maintained confidentially.
  • Employers may disclose the names of employees with COVID-19 to public health agencies.
  • Temporary staffing agencies may disclose the names of employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 to employers with whom the employee was placed.
  • Employers may not unilaterally postpone start dates or withdraw job offers from individuals because the employee is at high risk from COVID-19.
  • Employers have some duty to explore reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities that place them at higher risk for COVID-19 to allow those employees to perform work at the worksite.
  • Employers have some duty to explore reasonable accommodations for employees with preexisting mental health conditions that may be exacerbated by the pandemic.
  • Employers have a continued duty to accommodate and engage in the interactive process for employees with disabilities unrelated to COVID-19.
  • Employers can help reduce pandemic-related harassment by clearly communicating that fear of the COVID-19 pandemic should not be misdirected against individuals because of a protected characteristic, including their national origin or race.

This information should not be construed as legal advice. you have questions about the EEOC guidance or other COVID-19 employment related issues, please seek appropriate legal advice from one of our employment law attorneys. At our Wenatchee Office, please contact Erin McCool (emccool@omwlaw.com) or Gil Sparks (gsparks@omwlaw.com). At our Seattle Office, please contact Karen Sutherland (ksutherland@omwlaw.com), Beth Van Moppes (bvanmoppes@omwlaw.com), or VaLiesha Brown (vbrown@omwlaw.com).