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?
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.
Changes to House Bill 81 in September 2020
House Bill 81 Changes Announced in Ohio
On June 16, 2020, Governor Mike DeWine signed into effect a new law. The ripple effects of the passage of this law will affect Ohioans seeking to claim Workers’ Compensation. The changes set out by House Bill 81 will go into effect on September 14, 2020.
The bills set out number of changes. Firstly, the bill codifies the voluntary abandonment doctrine. Under the voluntary abandonment doctrine, an employee who abandons employment for reasons unrelated to the work injury is not entitled to temporary total disability compensation or wage loss compensation. Additionally, House Bill 81 states that employers may no longer deny or withdraw consent to a workers’ compensation settlement application if the claim is outside of the period in which the employer’s Bureau of Worker’s Compensation rates are affected by the application, and if the employee is no longer employed by the employer.
Changes to the Standard
The standard for employees filing applications for additional awards due to a safety violation has changed as well. Applications for awards due to safety requirement violations must now be filed within one year after the date of the injury or disability. Previously, that standard was two years. Another specific section of the bill states that employees working in detention facilities, including corrections officers, are now covered by their employers for post-exposure medical diagnostic services. These are services that become necessary as a result of contact with blood or other bodily fluid, drugs or other chemical substance, and/or responding to an inherently dangerous situation while working. The bill also states that if an employee dies as a result of a workplace injury or occupational disease, the employee’s estate is entitled to $7,500.00 in funeral expenses. This is an increase from the previously allowed $5,000.00.
It’s noteworthy that these changes came on amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and likely are influenced by these events. The new coverage of employees working in detention facilities may be a response to the pandemic. Employers are now required to cover medical diagnostic services for illnesses that result for exposure to bodily fluid. COVID-19 is transmitted through bodily fluid- airborne droplet transmission- and the Ohio incarceration system has been surging with cases.
What Can I Do?
If you have questions, attorneys with Barkan Meizlish DeRose Cox, LLP, are available to help with Ohio workers’ compensation and personal injury cases in Columbus and across the state. You can schedule a free consultation online of speak with a lawyer directly by calling (614) 221-4221.