According to the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office in New York, the highest number of Covid-19 related lawsuits workers have filed against their employers are disability accommodation claims. As employers fail to accommodate their workers’ disabilities, in the wake of the Covid-19 Crisis, workers are seeking protection against the virus by utilizing the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The Americans with Disabilities Act states that an employer must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities as long as those accommodations do not cause “undue hardship” for the employer. Currently, some workers are more at risk as they can have pre-existing conditions which results in severe complications if they were to contract the virus. Therefore, these workers have a right to request disability accommodations from their employers.
Judy Keenan, the New York Deputy Director of the EEOC, provides creative options for employers who must now find a way to accommodate these workers by protecting them from Covid-19. Some of these options range from continuing to have employees work remotely, staggering work schedules to guarantee less workers in the workplace, and providing personal protective equipment.
Additionally, employers might come to face other types of Covid-19 related disability claims. For instance, workers might file lawsuits that claim their employers denied them from returning to work due to their disability. Moreover, these claims can evolve away from disability and into age discrimination or “caregiver” bias as employers may refuse to return or rehire workers who are older and thus more vulnerable to the virus or those that must care for a family member.
As states are loosening restrictions Keenan reasons that reasonable accommodation claims will only grow in volume as more and more workers are authorized to return to work.
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