Per the CDC, persons with cancer, kidney disease, COPD, coronary artery disease, and Type 2 diabetes are at risk of severe illness due to Covid-19. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 41.4 million U.S. adults, ages 18-64, are at high risk of severe illness due to Covid and an underlying medical condition. Accordingly, medical providers are increasingly recommending that their high risk, working-age patients work remotely, or practice stringent social distancing and mask wearing at work. Does an employer have to comport with these recommendations? The answer is probably yes, if the employer is able to effect the accommodation without undue hardship.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act amendments of 2008, the definition of “disability” was expanded so that people with chronic medical conditions would be eligible for workplace accommodations, even if their conditions were controlled by doctor intervention. For these people, the question of whether their employers must accommodate them became not one of whether they were impaired enough to be eligible for “disability” accommodation, but rather whether it was practicable for the employer to provide the accommodation. On this subject, of “reasonable accommodation” in the Covid era, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has importantly stated: “There may be reasonable accommodations that could offer protection to an individual whose disability puts him at greater risk from COVID-19 and who therefore requests such actions to eliminate possible exposure. Even with the constraints imposed by a pandemic, some accommodations may meet an employee's needs on a temporary basis without causing undue hardship on the employer.”
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