Teleworking is a win-win for workers and employers.

By Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

Teleworking is a growing trend. Technology is making it possible. COVID-19 is a major catalyst. And, Big Tech is leading the way.

In response to COVID-19, in early March 2020, major tech firms, such as, Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Google, were the first to allow their West Coast workers to work from home. Other employers, both private and public, followed the example of the major tech firms. Teleworking may have slowed the spread of COVID-19 in California’s Bay Area.

Despite pressure to reopen the economy, major tech firms have embraced teleworking for the time being. Social distancing and the health of their employees are major concern.

Mark Zuckerberg said half of Facebook’s 45,000 workers could be teleworking in the next 5 to 10 years. Twitter will allow its workers to permanently work from home. The tech industry’s acceptance of teleworking is likely to have a ripple effect in other industries.

Working from home will particularly benefit workers who have disabilities that could be exacerbated by COVID-19 exposure at the workplace. Older workers with underlying health conditions, such as, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, etc., are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. For this group, a COVID-19 infection can be fatal.

Under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), disabled workers can request a reasonable accommodation and employers may be obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation, provided it does not cause an undue hardship. Teleworking is the ideal reasonable accommodation for many disabled workers.

Economically, employers who adopt teleworking could reduce their office related expenses. Meanwhile, workers who telecommute could eliminate the hassle and expense of traveling to work on a daily basis.

Law Office of Bryan A. Chapman

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Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

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COVID-19: Employment Discrimination

By Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

In the spring of 2020, COVID-19 caused massive disruption in the United States. Within a few months, millions of workers became unemployed due to COVID-19 related layoffs. According to the U.S. Labor Department figures, in April 2020, the number of unemployment workers exceeded those of the Great Depression, and Hispanics and African Americans workers were especially impacted. COVID-19 related layoffs disproportionately affected older and disabled workers.

According to AARP, when the overall U.S. unemployment rate spiked from 4.4% in March to 14.7% in April, the unemployment rate for women 55 and older rose even more: from 3.3% to 15.5%. The unemployment rate for men 55+ also soared, though a little bit less, from 3.4% to 12.1%.

Some employers see COVID-19 related layoffs as an opportunity to eliminate older workers. To these employers, older workers represent higher salaries and higher expenses due to insurance costs and paid time off due to illness. Some employers may have a similar attitude about disabled workers.

According to a May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Jobs Report, the number of working-age people with disabilities who were employed decreased by 950,000 between March and April (from 4,772,000 to 3,827,000), a 20 percent reduction.

Nonetheless, federal workplace anti-discrimination laws still apply. A worker can not be discrimination against and/or harassed based on their race, sex, national origin, religion, age, or disability.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) specifically warned employers about discriminatory layoffs. According to the EEOC, an employer should “review the process to determine if it will result in the disproportionate dismissal of older employees, employees with disabilities or any other group protected by federal employment discrimination laws”.

COVID-19 layoff can facilitate sexual harassment. Supervisors can use the threat of a COVID-19 related layoff to force subordinates to submit to unwanted sexual advances.

The earliest cases of COVID-19 occurred in China. As a result, Asian and Asian American workers have become targets for workplace discrimination/harassment.

Discrimination

Employers can deliberately use COVID-19 as a pretext to discriminate against and/or harass workers based on their race, sex, national origin, religion, age, or disability. Here are examples of illegal workplace discrimination:

1. you are laid off, while workers of a different race, sex, national origin, religion, age, or without a disability are not;

2. you are denied a promotion or increase in pay, while workers of a different race, sex, national origin, religion, age, or without a disability are not;

3. you are demotion or given a reduction in pay, while workers of a different race, sex, national origin, religion, age, or without a disability are not;

4. you are given an undesirable assignment or shift, while workers of a different race, sex, national origin, religion, age, or without a disability are not; and,

5. you are being verbally or physically harassed, while workers of a different race, sex, national origin, religion, age, or without a disability are not.

Retaliation

Federal workplace anti-discrimination laws also prohibit retaliation. Retaliation occurs when a worker is mistreated because they complained about discrimination. Here are examples of retaliation:

  1. undesirable transfers

2. unwarranted disciplinary action

3. harassment

4. refusal of deserved promotion or pay increase

5. demotion or pay reduction

6. termination of employment

Retaliation occurs when an employer takes an adverse action against a worker that is designed to stop a worker from complaining about discrimination/harassment. The adverse action should occur shortly after the worker complains.

Consult an attorney

If you are a victim of discrimination or retaliation, consult an experienced civil rights attorney.

Law Office of Bryan A. Chapman

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Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

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COVID-19: The life you save may be your own.

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

Contact:

Bryan A. Chapman, Esquire

(202) 508-1499

bchapman@baclaw.com

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