Navigating Thin Line Between Employee Rights & Safety In COVID-19 Era

Updated: Jan 12


During the 2020 Coronavirus crisis, it is more important than ever to make sure that employees are able to continue to work safely, and without risk to other employees. The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA” or the “Act”) protects applicants and employees from discrimination based on physical or mental disability, and continues to apply during the COVID-19 pandemic. The prohibition against discrimination based on disability also prevents an employer from “regarding as” disabled an applicant or employee because of a perception that the person has limitations, which are not based on objective facts. The ADA regulates and limits the circumstances under which an employer can request medical examinations or make medical inquiries about health conditions. When a disability is identified, an employer has a duty to investigate whether a reasonable accommodation would allow the individual to perform his or essential job duties. This article explains the basic concepts of when and under what conditions an employer can require medical testing, inquire about the health of an employee, and require fitness-for-duty assessments, and how these principles are applied to allow employers to take measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (the “Virus”) in the workplace.


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