The EEOC Issues Guidance on COVID-19 Related Workplace Laws

April 17, 2020 | Kenneth A. Novikoff | John K. Diviney | Tamika N. Hardy | Employment & Labor

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has updated its guidance on workplace laws during the COVID-19 outbreak. The guidance, updated on April 17, 2020, assists employers with navigating pandemic-related issues. In a question-and-answer format, the EEOC clarifies topics such as the confidentiality of medical information, inquiries about employee symptoms and providing reasonable accommodations.

The guidance can be found here: What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.

During the pandemic, the EEOC makes clear that employers with 15 or more employees may ask employees if they are experiencing symptoms of the pandemic virus. For COVID-19, these include symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat. Employers must maintain all information about an employee’s illness as a confidential medical record. Moreover, the EEOC addresses reasonable accommodations to employees whose disability puts him or her at greater risk for contracting the virus.

The EEOC also addresses the following issues relating to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • what information an employer can request from an employee who has called in sick;
  • discussing reasonable accommodations during the pandemic;
  • what an employer can ask to determine whether the employee has a disability;
  • implementation of a temporary reasonable accommodation;
  • how to address workplace harassment during the pandemic;
  • special rules on waiving discrimination claims in severance packages; and
  • steps to take to screen employees for COVID-19 when entering the workplace.

If you have any questions regarding the EEOC guidance, or any other employment laws and issues, please contact an attorney in the Employment & Labor Practice Group.

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