On Sept. 8, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued additional answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about how employers should comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) while also observing all applicable emergency workplace safety guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic. The new FAQs, which address various issues related to employees returning to work during the pandemic, were added to guidance that the EEOC first issued on March 18, 2020, and then updated in April, May and June of 2020.
The FAQs draw from the EEOC’s existing pandemic publication, Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the ADA, to help employers navigate workplace issues related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). In particular, the EEOC’s FAQs include information from a section of the publication that answers employer questions about what to do after a pandemic has been declared. This HR Compliance Bulletin contains the EEOC’s updated FAQs.
Employers are subject to the ADA if they have 15 or more employees. Smaller employers may be subject to similar rules under applicable state or local laws.
All employers should follow the most current guidelines and suggestions for maintaining workplace safety, as issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and any applicable state or local health agencies.
Employers with 15 or more employees should also become familiar with and follow the guidance provided in the EEOC’s FAQs about ADA compliance. These and all smaller employers should ensure that they comply with state and local anti-discrimination laws as well.
ADA Rules Still Apply but Do Not Prevent Safety Measures
Employers must follow ADA rules while observing emergency guidelines issued by federal, state and local health authorities during the pandemic.
The EEOC’s pandemic guidance clarifies that employers may:
- Ask employees if they have COVID-19 symptoms;
- Require employees to stay home (and to provide medical notes before returning to work) if they have COVID-19 symptoms; and
- Screen applicants for COVID-19 symptoms after making conditional job offers.