Agency after agency has declared the end of the federal COVID-19 public health emergency is in sight or, indeed, over. However, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a number of updates to its COVID-19 technical assistance, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws,” including adding a new question and answer about the end of the federal declaration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
According to EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows, “The end of the public health emergency is an important milestone, and this will help employees and employers understand how the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and other federal laws continue to protect our nation’s workforce from employment discrimination.”
Employers should familiarize themselves with the update. We outline a few, key points of interest below:
• Reasonable Accommodations Carry Over - The end of the COVID-19 public health emergency does not mean employers can automatically terminate reasonable accommodations that were provided due to pandemic-related circumstances. However, employers may evaluate accommodations granted during the public health emergency, and, in consultation with the employee, assess whether there continues to be a need for reasonable accommodation based on individualized circumstances.
• Long COVID Accommodations - For employees with Long COVID, the updates include common examples of possible reasonable accommodations, including a quiet workspace, use of noise cancelling devices, and uninterrupted worktime to address brain fog; alternative lighting and reducing glare to address headaches; rest breaks to address joint pain or shortness of breath; a flexible schedule or telework to address fatigue; and removal of “marginal functions” that involve physical exertion to address shortness of breath. Many of these are low or no-cost accommodations.
• COVID-related Harrassment - For employers, the updates include tips about remaining alert for COVID-related harassment of applicants or employees with a disability-related need to continue wearing a face mask or take other COVID-19 precautions at work. More information about the EEOC is available at www.eeoc.gov. If you have questions about how this development may affect your workforce, please contact Johnson & Bell Shareholders, Christopher J. Carlos or Caroline K. Vickrey.