Many businesses and government agencies are still in the process of bringing employees back into their facilities. There are many reasons why employers want employees to return to their workplaces. In determining who should return to work, employers need to remember that reasonable accommodation requests must be considered.
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended, requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities. Qualified individuals are those who have the requisite skill, education, experience and/or other job-related requirements. The individuals must also be able to perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.
The American with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) enacted in 2008 made it easier for most individuals with disabilities to qualify for coverage. Individuals can be covered if they have a physical and/or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, have a record of such disability, or are regarded as having a disability. The ADAAA clarified that an extensive analysis regarding the disability need not be done. The employer does, however, need to be made aware of the need for an accommodation if it is not readily known. Those individuals who are regarded as being disabled are not entitled to a reasonable accommodation since they do not actually have a disability.
If an employer becomes aware of an applicant’s or employee’s disability and that person requests an accommodation, there is an affirmative action that they should take in order to determine if there is a reasonable accommodation for the individual. We refer to this as an interactive process. The employer and the individual with a disability should be involved in this process in determining an effective accommodation for the person. The reasonable accommodation that the individual requests does not have to be given as long as the accommodation provided is effective.
Some employees have developed conditions due to COVID and while being away from the workplace. A few of these conditions are anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Employees also may have developed physical impairments as a result of having COVID. These cases should be analyzed based on the impairments caused by COVID and not the COVID itself. If an employee presents with one of these impairments and requests a reasonable accommodation, the employer should engage in the interactive process with the employee to determine an effective accommodation. If an employer needs assistance with determining a reasonable accommodation, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is a great resource.
If you have any questions about reasonable accommodations and returning employees to work, feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com or (502) 553-7648.