COVID-19 and ADA Reasonable Accommodations
Question of the Week
A teacher has submitted a doctor’s note stating they have a medical need to work from home. Our school will be starting the year in a distance-learning based model where no students or teachers will be coming to school. Do I need to have a meeting with the employee now to address this medical note?
No. We recommend you do not make decisions on possible future accommodation needs. You should communicate with this employee and acknowledge you have received their medical note/request for accommodation and that you have logged their need for accommodation. Inform them that since they are assigned to teach/work in an online-only format at this time it does not appear they have any current accommodation needs. You can let them know you will reach out to them at a time when your organization will be asking its employees to return to the workplace in order to understand if they continue to have accommodation needs and if so, you will start the interactive process with them. Bottom line: Accommodation discussions should be based on current needs and data. It is unclear what the future may bring, and you should not get ahead of the need to make decisions.
But Think About:
Just because you have not gone on record with the employee in making a decision about possible future accommodation needs does not mean that you cannot begin considering the request. For example, if you have 25 requests to work from home, you can start internal discussions on what your work-from-home capabilities may be and even evaluate your initial impression of your ability to provide this accommodation. You don’t need to share this with the employee now, but you can always start considering and planning by understanding how your organization will determine:
- If there are limited work-from-home options, how will you select who gets these? Is this a seniority based decision? Do you grant based on first requests being considered first?
- If you will require additional medical documentation to support the request or is what you have sufficient.
- If you will allow an employee to perform Light Duty at home or if work-from-home agreements will require the employee the ability to do their full duties from home.
Ultimately, it is likely you will call employees back to work before some are comfortable to return. Because of this, beginning to plan “behind the scenes” is a smart move as you will eventually have the need to address requests for accommodation.
Shaw HR Consulting has developed a new COVID-19 Disability Compliance Program.
The program is being offered for free on the Shaw HRC website at www.shawhrconsulting.com/covid.
Program materials have been created to help employers manage accommodation requests during the COVID-19 pandemic related to disability — such as requests to work from home — at a time when organizations are asking employees to return to the workplace or requests for leave related to COVID-19.
The program utilizes the CDC as a guidepost for evaluating “at increased risk” individuals.
The Shaw HR Consulting COVID-19 Disability Compliance Program includes:
- General Guidelines
- Video Training on the Materials
- Sample Scripts
- Template Letters and Forms
The Program is designed to offer employers an ADA compliant framework to manage work from home requests during this unprecedented time. As with all compliant programs, a consistent process is key to ensure your good faith efforts are documented. Shaw is happy to provide its clients with this process, as we work together as an HR community to continue doing good work. Click the button below or go to www.shawhrconsulting.com/covid to download program materials.
All program materials should be considered samples and should not be acted on without legal advice. Organizations are encouraged to contact their legal counsel prior to relying on any materials in this program.