As states have started reopening, the EEOC has updated its guidance regarding disability-related issues that may arise as employees return to work. The most recent updates were issued on May 5, 2020, to address issues relating to returning employees who have medical conditions that place them at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
For employees who have an underlying medical condition that put them at greater risk from COVID-19, if the employee desires a reasonable accommodation, the employee or the employee’s representative (such as the employee’s doctor) must let the employer know that an accommodation is needed. The employer may ask questions and/or require the employee to submit supporting medical documentation to support the request, as typically occurs during the ADA interactive process. Based on the information provided, the employer must determine whether the individual has a disability that requires accommodation and, if so, whether reasonable accommodation can be provided without imposing an undue hardship.
If an employee does not request a reasonable accommodation, the employer is not required to provide one. Employers also are prohibited from excluding employees from returning to work simply because the employee has a condition that might place him or her at higher risk from COVID-19. Rather, to justify excluding an employee from returning to work, or taking other adverse action, the employer must be able to establish that the employee has a disability that poses a “direct threat” to the employee’s health, based on an individualized assessment. In conducting such assessment, the employer should consider medical information about the particular employee’s disability, not the disability in general, as well as factors such as the severity of the pandemic in a particular area and the employee’s particular job duties.
Even if the employer determines that an employee’s disability poses a direct threat to the employee’s health, the employer cannot exclude the employee from the workplace or take other adverse action unless there is no reasonable accommodation that would eliminate or reduce the risk. Such accommodations could include providing additional or enhanced protective gear, allowing the employee to telework or work in an area that allows more social distancing, reassigning the employee to a different job, and/or allowing the employee to take leave.
The EEOC’s updated guidance on this ADA issue, as well as resources on compliance with other EEO laws, is available here.
The EEOC also has established a webpage where it has consolidated relevant guidelines and other information regarding compliance with federal EEO law during the COVID-19 crisis.
The webpage is available here.
For more information about the ADA or other discrimination issues related to COVID-19, or about any of the new developments in employment-related laws as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, please refer to the HGRS LLP Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center, at www.hgrslaw.com, or contact our firm at (404) 442-8776.Read More
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) Consumer Division recently issued warnings to businesses and to the general public about scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, scammers are calling businesses to offer to sell a “COVID-19 Kit,” and then asking for employees’ personal information, including bank accounts, dates of birth, and social security numbers. Fraudsters also are sending emails pretending to be federal agents and informing individuals that they are approved for stimulus checks, government loans, or other monetary relief, and that a check is ready to be picked up. Be aware that the federal government will not ask someone to “pick up a check.” Any payments being made by the federal government to qualified recipients will be direct deposited or sent by U.S. Mail. Those responding to these scams may be asked for money, gift cards, or personal information. If you are targeted by one of these phishing scams, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
The FTC also issued an alert that phony websites are being created to sell bogus products related to COVID-19. Be aware that the product you are purchasing may be a scam, and there currently are no vaccines available to prevent COVID-19.
In one case, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has announced criminal charges against the operators of the website “coronavirusmedicalkit.com.” The scammers were conducting a wire fraud scheme offering individuals access to vaccine kits in exchange for a shipping cost of $4.95 paid by credit card. However, according to the DOJ, there are no legitimate COVID-19 vaccines, and no one is authorized to distribute any such vaccine to the public. As a result of this case and other COVID-19 fraud schemes, state Attorneys General offices and U.S. Attorneys throughout the United States have announced their commitment to targeting scams that exploit the COVID-19 national emergency.
In Florida, Attorney General Ashley Moody joined the U.S. Attorneys in each of the federal districts in Florida in working together to prosecute COVID-19 scammers, particularly those targeting the elderly and those offering fake vaccines. Florida’s Attorney General released a consumer alert warning Floridians to exercise caution in conducting COVID-19 research. According to the alert, various websites purporting to “inform” the general public instead contain malware capable of stealing sensitive user data. These websites easily are spread through email attachments, websites, and phony text message links.
Employers must remain vigilant about COVID-19 scams. Moreover, with unprecedented amounts of layoffs and furloughs, unemployed individuals are particularly vulnerable to fraud schemes designed to exploit their predicaments during this crisis. Employers must be watchful for email fraud with phony email address senders, websites claiming access to unemployment benefits, scammers pretending to recruit employees affected by the layoffs, and scammers imitating legitimate U.S. companies using false websites, email addresses, and social media links to solicit job applications. All these scams are designed to steal victims’ personal information, which can be used to access bank accounts, be sold on the dark web, or be used in additional scams.
The prevalence and array of COVID-19 schemes makes protecting yourself, your employees, and your business a complex and difficult task. At HGRS LLP, we remain available to assist our clients with these issues.
For more information from the FTC, see the following resource:
For more information about COVID-19 fraud schemes, or about any of the new developments in employment-related laws created in response to the COVID-19 crisis, please refer to the HGRS LLP Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center, at www.hgrslaw.com, or contact our firm at (404) 442-8776.Read More