Many Americans are wondering right now if COVID-19 constitutes a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. As the law stands now, it does not. However, the laws are evolving daily which means workers need to be prepared to exercise their rights during this uncertain time. One thing that has not changed though is that employers need to continue to make reasonable accommodations to employees during COVID-19 if they do have a disability.
Covid-19 Can Complicate Pre-Existing Conditions
While on its own COVID-19 does not constitute a disability, an employee who contracts the virus may still be entitled to ADA protection if COVID-19 is severe and complicates one or more of the employee’s health conditions/disabilities.
In addition to ADA protections, the individual may be qualified to receive reasonable accommodations during COVID-19 outbreaks.
Reasonable Accommodations During Covid-19 Outbreaks
Reasonable accommodations can mean a multitude of things. Right now, employers are walking a tight balance to protecting employees from contagions and protecting employees’ rights. Though this is uncharted territory for all, employers need to stay up to date with government mandates including providing and permitting reasonable accommodations to employees who may be more susceptible to contracting COVID-19.
Such accommodations as explained by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission include:
- Allowing employees to work from home when possible
- Creating one-way aisles to avoid employee contact during shifts
- Using barriers between work stations as added protection
- Temporary job duty restructuring
- Providing or allowing employees to wear their own personal protective equipment in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines
Safe Work Environments
In addition to creating reasonable accommodations for employees, employers also have a responsibility to create and maintain safe working conditions for their employees. This has caused great debate for many working in the medical field as there are nationwide shortages of personal protective equipment for those working in the frontlines of the pandemic.
While many have resorted to reusing equipment and using homemade masks, this is not enough to protect these workers from contracting COVID-19 in many cases.
Because of this, some hospitals are claiming that they are protected under the Good Samaritan Act from legal liability as this is a global pandemic– as it applies to both legal actions by employees and patients.
But hospital workers are not so sure. Constitutionally, we are afforded a right to protection and when an employer does not have the proper equipment or plans in place to protect those working, that would appear to be a clear violation of such protections.
In the coming weeks and months, new legislation is bound to occur. But do not wait for the system to change. Be prepared to fight for your rights. We’re ready to stand by you.
If you have been put at risk or have caught COVID-19 as a result of your employer’s negligence or inability to provide protection to you and your coworkers, you deserve justice.