By Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire
If White House aides and Secret Service agents can become infected with COVID-19, then who is safe? We know that hospitals, nursing homes, jails, prisons, homeless shelters, and meat packing plants are hot spots for COVID-19 infections. But, is any workplace safe from COVID-19 infections?
In the midst of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the country is abandoning stay at home orders and reopening the economy this summer. Millions of workers will be exposed to COVID-19 and, in the absence of a vaccine, thousands will die from COVID-19 infections.
For most workers, a COVID-19 infection will not be fatal. But, for a small group of workers, a COVID-19 infection will be fatal. Numbers show that for older workers with a comorbidity (hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, etc.) a COVID-19 infection can be fatal.
Americans with Disability Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) offers protection to workers with disabilities who are at heightened risk from COVID-19. The ADA allows workers with disabilities to request a reasonable accommodation from their employers. Employers are obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation provided doing so does not cause an undue hardship.
In the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine, a reasonable accommodation would involve reducing a worker’s exposure to COVID-19 until an effective COVID-19 vaccine can be administered. The ideal reasonable accommodation would be for the worker to work from home. However, working from home may not be possible.
Under the ADA, the worker and their employer have to engage in an interactive process to determine what kind of reasonable accommodation is available. Employers are expected to act in good faith, but this is not always the case.
An employer may fail to provide a worker with a reasonable accommodation. Retaliation is commonplace. And, it is not unusual for an employee who has been granted a reasonable accommodation to eventually be terminated for not performing the job for which their were hired. Reasonable accommodation claims can be contentious. These claims can end up in litigation.
However, for an older worker with a comorbidity, pursuing a reasonable accommodation can be a matter of life or death.
Word of caution: Consult an experienced civil rights attorney before seeking a reasonable accommodation.
Law Office of Bryan A. Chapman
Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire
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