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General Resources

Returning to Work During COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions

View a PDF of this document.

We created this document to answer some of the most common and pressing questions about employment rights for those starting a new job or returning to work in the COVID-19 Pandemic. Please keep in mind that this guidance could change, and represents the best information available at this time from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC), among other sources. 

As always, if you have specific questions about your employment situation, or need clarification on any of these topics, please call our intake department at 614-466-7264 or 1-800-282-9181. Press option 2, and leave a voicemail. We will return your call.

Employment Rights and Remedies—If an Issue Arises

Do I still have employment rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Ohio law? Can I still file a charge of discrimination?

Yes. The EEOC and OCRC continue to enforce the ADA and Ohio laws against discrimination, which still apply to employers with 4 employees for Ohio law, or 15 employees for the ADA. Check with the EEOC or OCRC to get the most up- to-date information about how to file a charge. Their websites are http://www.eeoc.gov and http://crc.ohio.gov. It is important to remember you have 180 days to file a charge of discrimination with the OCRC, or 300 days to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC."

Hiring Medical Inquiries

May my employer screen applicants for COVID-19 symptoms?

Yes. After they conditionally offer you a job, employers can screen for COVID-19 symptoms, if they do so for everyone they hire for that job.

May my employer take my temperature as part of a screening medical exam?

Yes. An employer can conduct certain medical exams after they conditionally offer you a job, including temperature.

May my employer delay my start date because I have COVID-19 or its symptoms?

Yes. The CDC has stated that an individual who has COVID-19 or symptoms associated with it should not be in the workplace.

May an employer withdraw my job offer if they need me to start right away, but I have COVID-19 or its symptoms?

Yes. Based on CDC guidance, you cannot safely enter the workplace, and therefore the employer is permitted to withdraw the job offer.

May an employer delay my start date or withdraw my job offer only because I may be at higher risk from COVID-19?

No. Even if you are in a group the CDC has identified as being at greater risk, your employer cannot delay your start date or withdraw your job offer for only this reason. However, the employer might choose to allow you to work from home or ask you if you would like to postpone your start date.

Return to Work—As Governmental Stay-at-Home Orders are Modified or Lifted

Is my employer permitted to make medical inquiries or conduct medical exams and screening when returning to the workplace?

Yes. The law lets employers make disability-related inquiries or conduct medical exams if they are related to your job and they are necessary for the business. This includes the need to exclude employees with certain symptoms that may pose a direct threat to health or safety. The CDC and public health officials have issued guidance that these health checks are a necessary part of returning to work safely.

This means that employers can make medical inquiries or conduct medical exams and screenings as long as they follow current guidelines from the CDC and public health authorities about their type of workplace. For example, this might include taking temperatures and asking questions about symptoms or to require self-reporting, of all those entering the workplace, in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Is my employer permitted to single me out for screening, or exclude me from the workplace, based on my disability?

No. Your employer should only screen or make medical inquiries where job-related and consistent with business necessity. Your employer should not single you out for screening or exclusion only because of your disability.

Can my employer require me to wear protective gear and take steps to control the spread of infection?

Yes. Employers may require protective gear such as masks and gloves, and require you to follow infection control practices like regular hand washing and social distancing.

Can I request a reasonable accommodation for modified protective gear or modified practices because of my disability?

Yes. If you need a reasonable accommodation to these items or practices, you can ask for it. Examples people with disabilities might need include: non-latex gloves; modified face masks for interpreters or those who communicate with others who use lip-reading; gowns designed for individuals who use wheelchairs. Examples of modified practices could include: allowing personal care assistance or finding alternatives to hand-washing rules.

Your employer should talk about these requests with you, and should provide reasonable accommodations or an alternative if they are able to without an undue hardship on their business. The Job Accommodation Network (www.askjan. org) may be able to assist in helping to identify potential accommodations. The EEOC has encouraged all employers and employees to be creative and flexible in discussing reasonable accommodations during this pandemic.

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Employment Rights and COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions

View this document as a PDF.

This document answers some frequently asked questions about employment rights in the COVID-19 Pandemic. Please keep in mind that this guidance could change and represents the best information available at this time from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC), among other sources.
If you have specific questions about your employment situation or need clarification on these topics, please call our intake department at 614-466-7264 or 1-800-282-9181. Press option 2, and leave a voicemail. We will return your call.

Employment Rights and Remedies

Do I still have employment rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Ohio law? Can I still file a charge of discrimination?

Yes. The EEOC and OCRC continue to enforce the ADA and the Ohio laws against discrimination, which still apply to employers with 4 employees for Ohio law,
or 15 employees for the ADA. You should check with the EEOC or OCRC to get the most up-to-date information about how to file a charge. Their websites are http://www.eeoc.gov and http://crc.ohio.gov. Both agencies can help you complete charge paperwork and have it notarized. It is important to remember you have 180 days to file a charge of discrimination with the OCRC, or 300 days to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

Can I still file a lawsuit under the ADA, Ohio law, or both? What about deadlines?

You can still file a lawsuit, but some courts have changed filing directions because of COVID-19. If you have received a Notice of Rights to Sue letter from the EEOC, meaning you have only 90 days to file a lawsuit from when you got the letter, or if you have questions about a deadline, DRO recommends you contact our intake for help. Some court filing deadlines may be extended at this time, and an attorney can help let you know what deadlines apply to your case.

Medical Inquiries and Examinations and Confidentiality

May my employer ask me for medical information if I call in sick to protect other employees or customers?

Yes. Employers may ask you if you are experiencing symptoms such as fever, chills, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, or other symptoms associated with COVID-19 per the Center for Disease Control or other public health officials. Employers should keep this information private under the ADA.

Is my employer allowed to take my temperature or a COVID-19 test at work?

Yes. These are medical examinations, but, employers may take your temperature or a COVID-19 test. This is because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as other public health authorities, have acknowledged community spread of COVID-19 and provided precautions to minimize spread.

Is my employer allowed to make me stay home if I have symptoms of COVID-19?

Yes. The CDC says that if you are ill with symptoms of COVID-19, you should leave the workplace. The ADA does not prevent your employer from requiring that you follow this direction.

Is my employer allowed to require me to have a doctor’s note to return to work?

Yes. The law permits this because either it is not disability-related, or because the pandemic is severe enough to permit the inquiry under the ADA. Given the pandemic, doctors and other health care providers may not have time to fill out paperwork clearing you to return to work. You can see if your employer will look at different ways to clear you to return; for example, a local clinic may be able to provide a form, stamp, or email to certify that you do not have COVID-19.

Must my employer keep my medical information, including information about COVID-19, private?

Yes. Under the ADA, employers must store all medical information about employees separate from their normal files and keep this information private. COVID-19 information may be stored in an existing medical file, including information about COVID-19 status or symptoms.

May my employer keep a log of the results of daily temperature checks?

Yes. This information must still be kept private.

May my employer disclose my name to a public health agency if it learns I have COVID-19?

Yes.

If I work for a temporary staffing agency or contractor which places employees in another employer’s workplace, may my employer notify that employer if they learn I have COVID-19?

Yes. A staffing agency or contractor may tell the employer your name because the employer may need to determine who else you had contact with."

Reasonable Accommodations

Is there a resource available about reasonable accommodations in the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes. The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) has a website discussing types of accommodations at http://www.askjan.org. JAN’s materials specific to COVID-19 are located at http://askjan.org/topics/COVID-19.cfm.

If my job can only be done where I work, can I get a reasonable accommodation if am at higher risk from COVID-19 because of my disability?

Possibly. If your disability puts you at greater risk from COVID-19, you can request reasonable accommodations to reduce your risk of exposure. Flexibility by employers and employees is important in determining if an accommodation is possible in these circumstances. Making changes to the work environment, temporarily restructuring high-risk job duties, temporarily transferring you to a different position, or modifying a work schedule or shift assignment are some examples that may let you safely do your job, but still reduce your exposure to others in the workplace.

If my mental illness or other disorder has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, can I request a reasonable accommodation?

Yes. If you have certain mental health conditions, you may have more difficulty handling how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed your life and work, and may request reasonable accommodations. As with any accommodation request, your employer may ask you questions to see if your condition is a disability, talk to you about how the requested accommodation would help you and let you keep working, and explore if other accommodations may help you. Your employer may ask for medical documentation as well.

My employer requires everyone to telework right now. Should my reasonable accommodation requests not related to telework be delayed?

Not necessarily. Your employer might first consider requests needed while teleworking, but can also talk to you about other reasonable accommodations, even while teleworking. Employers or employees may be able to acquire or provide all the information needed. If a reasonable accommodation is granted, the employer may be able to make some arrangements in advance.

Can I request an altered or additional reasonable accommodation because of COVID-19 if I already received a reasonable accommodation?

Possibly. For example, if you are teleworking because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may need different accommodations for teleworking than you do in the workplace. Your employer can talk with you to see if the same or a different disability is the reason for this new request, and why you need an additional or altered accommodation.

May my employer still request medical documentation to support my request for reasonable accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Yes. If it is not obvious, and they did not already know about it, your employer can ask you questions or ask you for medical documents, to show that you have a disability under the ADA. Different employers do this in different ways, and if you have questions DRO encourages you to contact our intake department.

Does my employer still have to engage in the interactive process? Can my employer still request information from me about why I need a reasonable accommodation?

Yes. Your employer should still talk to you about your requests. Your employer may ask you questions or ask you for medical documents to show that you have a disability. Your employer can also ask you about how your disability limits you, how the accommodation you have asked for helps, if another accommodation might also help just as well, and how your requested accommodation will let you continue doing your job.

Can my employer provide a temporary accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then talk to me more about it later?

Yes. Some employers may hold off on a final decision due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They may choose to grant your requested accommodations temporarily, and then come back and talk to you about them later. This is important as public health rules change or are lifted, which may change the accommodations you need. Your employer can put an end date on the temporary accommodation, which could be a specific date, or simply when you go back to work. Your employer might also provide you a temporary accommodation while waiting for medical documentation. You can request an extension from your employer, and they should consider it, if you have a hard time getting documentation, especially if your disability puts you at greater risk from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

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