Reasonable Accommodation and ADA Compliance in Light of COVID-19
By Linda Batiste, JD
Job Accommodation Network
By Brittany Lambert, MS, CRC
ADA Accommodation Specialist
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world of employment in unexpected ways. From the rise in telework to mask mandates, unprecedented modifications have brought new and lasting challenges to the forefront of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
To implement effective practices that will enhance workplace safety and promote employee well-being, it is essential that employers continue to build their knowledge base regarding the impact of COVID-19 on workplace accommodations.
Disability Versus “High Risk”
Throughout the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has curated a list of medical conditions that may put individuals at enhanced risk of severe complications from COVID-19. To avoid potentially life-threatening exposure, many employees have requested reasonable accommodation under Title I of the ADA. This has led employers to re-evaluate their understanding of ADA eligibility.
ADA eligibility has not changed during COVID-19. To receive accommodation, one must be a “qualified individual with a disability.” A qualified individual satisfies the necessary job-related requirements for the position held or sought. This can include having the appropriate educational background, skill, experience, and licensure. The individual must also be able to perform the job’s essential functions, with or without reasonable accommodation.
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