EEOC Updates COVID-19 Technical Assistance
With the COVID-19 public health emergency ending, officials with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have again updated the agency’s COVID-19 technical assistance guidelines.
The technical assistance was updated more than a dozen times over the course of the pandemic.
Officials said the latest updates are intended to help employers and employees understand the continued impact of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Rehabilitation Act, and other federal laws as it relates to COVID-19.
Accommodations and Employee Illness
EEOC officials said employers cannot automatically end reasonable accommodations they put in place during the pandemic.
Under the guidelines, employers may evaluate the accommodations and consult with the employee to assess whether the need remains present.
Employers may also provide temporary accommodations. If an employee requests an extension of a temporary accommodation, the employer must consider it.
If an employee calls in sick, an employer is still allowed to ask if the employee has COVID-19 or symptoms of the virus.
The employer may follow the CDC-recommended period of isolation.
The update also maintains that employers can ask all employees coming onto a worksite if they have COVID-19 or symptoms. Employers may ask whether they have been tested and request to see test results.
Long COVID and Harassment
Some employees may continue to experience long COVID.
The EEOC update includes examples of possible reasonable accommodations employers may offer, including a quiet workspace, use of noise cancelling devices, and uninterrupted time to address brain fog.
Other examples include providing alternative lighting and reducing glare to address headaches, rest breaks to address joint pain or shortness of breath, a flexible schedule or telework to address fatigue, and removal of “marginal functions” that involve physical exertion to address shortness of breath.
In terms of harassment prevention, the EEOC said an employer may remind employees it is against federal EEO laws to harass or discriminate against coworkers based on race, national origin, color, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy), religion, age, disability, or genetic information.
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