The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a key piece of federal law which gives much needed protections to those with certain disabilities and debilitating medical conditions. Under the ADA, employers may be required to make reasonable accommodations for job applicants and current employees in order to promote equal access to employment. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a whole new level of complexity when it comes to dealing with the provisions of the ADA. The reason for this is because many employees and applicants may have underlying health conditions which can make the coronavirus more dangerous. In this post, we will discuss a few points which employers should know when it comes to the ADA’s provisions and COVID.
#1: The ADA Restricts the Acquisition of Medical Information from Employees
Normally, the ADA restricts the ability of employers to acquire medical information from employees and job applicants. For instance, under normal circumstances, employers are prohibited from making disability inquiries or giving medical exams before making a job offer to an applicant. Once an employer hires an applicant, medical exams and disability inquiries are prohibited unless they are necessary for business purposes. In order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers may make certain inquiries regarding an employee’s health; employers may also take the temperatures of employees in order to verify their employees’ condition. Generally, employers may do what is necessary in order to prevent the spread of the virus and promote the safety of workers. However, employer actions must still be governed by a standard of reasonableness.
#2: The ADA Imposes a Confidentiality Requirement on Employers
In nearly all situations, employers are required to keep medical information on employees confidential. What’s more, if an employee requests an accommodation, or is receiving an accommodation, this information must also be kept confidential. In order to maximize the confidentiality of employees’ medical information, the ADA requires that such information be kept in a separate file, apart from other general data on employees.
To stay compliant with the ADA, employers must keep medical information related to COVID apart from files containing general information on employees. Employers don’t need to create separate “COVID medical information” files, but they at least need to keep COVID related data in existing medical data files. Employers can collect data on COVID, such as employee temperatures, instances of infection, and so forth, but must keep this information separate.
#3: The ADA Imposes a Requirement of Reasonable Accommodation
The ADA imposes a requirement for employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” to employees, as well as job applicants, who possess disabilities or debilitating medical conditions. Whether a given accommodation is reasonable depends on a case-by-case analysis of a situation; an accommodation is considered unreasonable whenever it creates an undue hardship or is excessively expensive for the employer.
How does this intersect with COVID-19? Employers may have employees who believe that they need special accommodations in order to avoid the coronavirus. As we know, COVID-19 is more likely to be fatal for those who already have certain health conditions. Employers may therefore receive requests from employees for accommodation to increase their safety. As with any request, whether a COVID related request meets the reasonable accommodation standard depends on the specifics of the case.
Contact Trembly Law for More Information
As you can see, the provisions of the ADA intersect directly with the issues presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. To remain compliant with the ADA, employers should be ready to consult with an experienced attorney, because complying with the ADA may be difficult in certain situations. To learn more, reach out to the Trembly Law Firm today by calling (305) 431-5678.