With some California businesses re-opening and others changing their operating procedures, you may be concerned about your health and wellbeing. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives at-risk workers the right to request reasonable accommodations in their workplace. Although we typically see these kinds of requests in relation to wheelchair accessibility, light-duty options, and handicapped parking, the coronavirus pandemic has extended the scope of these accommodations to include accommodations related to the disease. These protections are important to many at-risk workers, especially those deemed essential workers.
Am I An At-Risk Employee?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that older adults and people with compromised immune systems and/or underlying conditions are at a higher risk of developing severe symptoms from COVID-19. Some of the underlying conditions listed by the CDC are:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Chronic lung disease/COPD
- Organ transplant recipients
- Serious heart conditions
- Sickle cell disease
- Obesity (body mass index of 30 or higher)
If you are over the age of 65 or meet one of these health criteria, you may be able to request reasonable accommodations from your employer.
What Is A "Reasonable Accommodation"? How Do I Request One?
The ADA National Network defines reasonable accommodation as a "change to the application or hiring process, to the job, to the way the job is done, or the work environment that allows a person with a disability who is qualified for the job to perform the essential functions of that job and enjoy equal employment opportunities." There is a long laundry list of accommodations that may be requested depending on your disability and your job.
There is no deadline to request reasonable accommodation. You can start the process by asking your employer, in writing, for an accommodation. You should explain how your disability prevents you from doing your job or makes your job difficult and why any measures already in place are not enough to accommodate your disability. Also include why this accommodation will help you to perform your job.
After you submit your written request, your employer should meet with you to discuss your options. This is referred to as the "interactive process."
What Are Examples of COVID-Related Accommodations?
Working From Home - For many businesses, converting employees to a work-from-home status has been extremely beneficial. It limits exposure of employees and allows employees more flexibility they may need for childcare or other changes due to the pandemic.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) - PPE is not just for healthcare workers. With many cities and states mandating the use of face masks, the use of personal protective equipment is becoming one of the most requested accommodations. This equipment can also include things like face shields, gloves, plexiglass barriers and more.
Reassignment - Some jobs are very difficult to do safely during this time, so you may need to move to a different role for a while. Rather than being in a customer-facing role, you may be able to work in an office position, or even from home.
Other Accommodations - Every employee and every workplace in unique. Your employer should work with you to determine the best kind of accommodation for you and your job.
What If My Employer Says No?
If your employer denies your claim for a COVID-related reasonable accommodation, you may be able to file a complaint with the EEOC or the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). At Davtyan Law Firm, we focus exclusively on employment law issues in California.
If you need help requesting a reasonable accommodation or filing a complaint for a denied request, give us a call today. One of our friendly team members will help guide you during these unprecedented times.