The pandemic forced a lot of workplaces to shift to remote arrangements out of safety concerns. But now, as employers have tried to transition back to in-office work, they could be running afoul of the ADA if they don’t provide reasonable accommodations to those with disabilities. If work had successfully been completed at home before, it could be difficult to prove employees’ need to be on site to meet their job requirements, lawyers say.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September 2021 filed a discrimination case against ISS Facility Services Inc., a facility management services company, for not permitting a worker with a disability to work remotely two days per week once the facility was reopened during the early months of the pandemic. Employees had been working remotely four days per week from March through June 2020.
“Denying a reasonable accommodation and terminating an employee because of her disability clearly violates the ADA at any time. In light of the additional risks to health and safety created by COVID-19, it is particularly concerning that an employer would take this action several months into a global pandemic,” Marcus Keegan, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, said in a news release at the time.
But remote work isn’t the only accommodation employers can make for workers with disabilities. They also can look at ways to reduce exposure for workers at high risk for COVID-19 through mitigation efforts, the EEOC said.
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