The ADA, COVID-19, and Employee Fears

Mara Siegel , July 20, 2020

 ADA Accommodations During COVID-19

For many Americans,returning to work amidst the COVID-19 crisis causes concern for the health and safety of themselves their families. Since the declaration of a global pandemic, America’s most vulnerable citizens have been at the forefront of conversation about preventing the spread. Many “healthy” citizens are not considered at-risk for COVID-19, while those with pre-existing conditions are especially susceptible. Nevertheless, America is re-opening its economy. This leaves individuals with disabilities and pre-existing health conditions in an unwinnable battle. Should they attempt to return to work despite their condition or continue to stay home and risk income? Will the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) help them?

Limitations of the ADA

We recommend that if you have health and safety concerns, you express those concerns in writing to your employer. If you have an underlying medical condition or care for someone who does,  contact your doctor to ask about accommodations under the ADA.

The ADA prevents employers from denying employment based on an individual’s status as disabled. The ADA also calls for employers to provide sufficient accommodations for those individuals. New difficulties will continue to rise for disabled individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic and foreseeable future. Employment laws in America are about to undergo an unprecedented wave of new applications, potential violations, and changes. How can employees trust their employer will respect and comply with laws, when the laws themselves are not necessarily equipped to protect them in these uncertain times?

What’s Next?

It is hard to give an affirming answer to employees during uncertain times. However, workers can contact the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to file a complaint if their employer is not adhering to safe practices and may explore the possibility of a workers’ compensation claim if the worker contracts the COVID-19 as a result of returning to work at the employer’s insistence.

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