By Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire
Speak up! If your job brings you in contact with co-workers or the general public, informing your employer about underlying health conditions that put you at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 could save your life.
You have rights! The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) gives workers, who have disabilities that put them at greater risk of developing severe COVID-19, the legal right to request that their employer minimize their exposure to COVID-19.
There are a number of underlying conditions. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released a document on March 12, 2020 titled “Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission.” The CDC document lists underlying conditions that can increase the risk of developing severe COVID-19:
- Blood disorders (e.g., sickle cell disease or on blood thinners)
- Chronic kidney disease as defined by your doctor. Patient has been told to avoid or reduce the dose of medications because kidney disease, or is under treatment for kidney disease, including receiving dialysis
- Chronic liver disease as defined by your doctor. (e.g., cirrhosis, chronic hepatitis) Patient has been told to avoid or reduce the dose of medications because liver disease or is under treatment for liver disease.
- Compromised immune system (immunosuppression) (e.g., seeing a doctor for cancer and treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation, received an organ or bone marrow transplant, taking high doses of corticosteroids or other immunosuppressant medications, HIV or AIDS)
- Current or recent pregnancy in the last two weeks
- Endocrine disorders (e.g., diabetes mellitus)
- Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders)
- Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease)
- Lung disease including asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (chronic bronchitis or emphysema) or other chronic conditions associated with impaired lung function or that require home oxygen
- Neurological and neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability, moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury].
You may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation. Under the ADA, some of these underlying conditions may be considered disabilities. A worker, whose disability puts them at greater risk from COVID-19, may request a reasonable accommodation that minimizes COVID-19 exposure. An employer may be obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation provided it does not create an undue hardship.
Be prepared to negotiate. The goal is to minimize your exposure to COVID-19. For instance, a worker with an underlying condition should have minimum exposure to co-workers and the general public. This may be achieved by temporarily reassigning a worker to a different work schedule, job location, or position, as well as, tele-commuting.
You could be saving your own life. Let your employer know about your underlying health condition and then negotiate for minimum COVID-19 exposure.
Law Office of Bryan A. Chapman
Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire
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