EEOC Tells Employers ADA and Rehabilitation Act Do Not Prevent Them from Following CDC Guidance on Coronavirus

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – a federal agency enforcing workplace anti-discrimination laws – has told employers that the reasonable accommodation rules about medical examinations and inquiries required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act of 1973 do not prevent them from following the interim guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about steps they should take regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

The EEOC – on a web page titled “What You Should Know About the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act and the Coronavirus” – told employers that the ADA and Rehabilitation Act rules would continue to apply during the Coronavirus outbreak. The EEOC has provided guidance on “Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act” that identifies relevant established ADA and Rehabilitation Act principles and answers questions frequently asked about the workplace during Coronavirus-like events such as:

  • How much information may an employer request from an employee who calls in sick, in order to protect the rest of its workforce during a Coronavirus-like event?
  • When may an ADA-covered employer take the body temperature of employees during a Coronavirus-like event?
  • Does the ADA allow employers to require employees to stay home if they have symptoms of the Coronavirus?
  • When employees return to work, does the ADA allow employers to require doctors’ notes certifying their fitness for duty?

“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in humans and many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. Rarely, animal coronaviruses can infect people and then spread between people,” according to the CDC guidance. The What You Should Know (WYSK) post from the EEOC about the Coronavirus is available here. The guidance from the EEOC on the Coronavirus and pandemic flu is available here. The interim guidance from the CDC on the Coronavirus is available here.

The CDC provided interim guidance for businesses and employers about Coronavirus in February of 2020. In the short term, the CDC recommended that employers encourage sick employees to stay home, emphasize respiratory etiquette and clean hands hygiene by all employees, and perform environmental cleaning. Long term strategy included establishing an infectious disease outbreak response plan, readying company infrastructure for remote workers, and preparing for absenteeism in the workplace.

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