May 5, 2020
To help employers as they navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic, the EEOC issued a “What You Should Know” guidance.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a Question and Answer style guidance to help employers that are operating during the pandemic. Many organizations need additional people to help meet consumer demands. They are interviewing, running comprehensive background checks and onboarding qualified candidates.
In the EEOC’s guidance, they covered topics related to hiring people who have symptoms of COVID-19. Employers were told that they could test applicants for the virus after extending a conditional job offer. It was also noted that this policy must be the same for all new hires to be fair and consistent.
One topic covered whether or not an employer may delay the start date for an applicant who exhibits symptoms of COVID-19. The EEOC specified that any person who has symptoms should not be in the workplace. Start dates can be delayed as necessary. If a position must be filled immediately, organizations may withdraw an offer of employment.
Within the EEOC guidance, the need to accommodate individuals with hardships and disabilities was addressed. It said there may be “reasonable accommodations that could offer protection to an individual whose disability puts him at greater risk from COVID-19 and who therefore requests such actions to eliminate possible exposure.”
A few of the questions they covered included:
• If all employees are telecommuting, should an employer postpone discussing requests to accommodate individuals with disabilities until they need to return to work? The answer was not necessarily. Employers were told they may give higher priority to requests for accommodations that are required for remote workers and that they should acquire all the information possible to help make hiring decisions.
• If an employee requests an accommodation for a medical condition, may the employer ask for additional details to determine if the condition is a disability? The answer was yes. The employer may request documentation or ask questions to help determine if the person has a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
• Do the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act apply to applicants or employees who are classified as "critical infrastructure workers" or "essential critical workers" by the CDC? The answer was yes, these Acts apply regardless of the worker’s designation.
As states start to relax Shelter In Place orders, organizations will ask employees to return to their workplaces. The EEOC covered several topics regarding this process.
First, they stated that employers may test employees for COVID-19, including asking health-related questions and taking temperatures. This must be done in accordance with CDC guidelines. It further mentioned that employers should treat all employees equally.
Next they covered requests from employees regarding protective gear. Some employees may request accommodations due to disabilities or for religious reasons. The EEOC stated that employers should: “discuss the request and provide the modification or an alternative if feasible and not an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business under the ADA or Title VII.”
The EEOC guidance covered various other topics. Read the full document.
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