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The ADA at Work: Considerations for COVID-19

Across the nation, businesses both large and small are adapting their operations to protect the safety and health of their employees and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. As they do so, many may have questions about balancing recommended precautions with employees' rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other disability nondiscrimination laws.

To help, the ODEP-funded Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN), in coordination with the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic ADA Centers, hosted a webinar addressing the topic. The webinar, now archived, was framed around questions that EARN and the ADA National Network (which includes 10 regional centers in total) have received in recent weeks.

To answer these questions, the webinar's panelists relayed guidance published by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to help employers understand the ADA, including its rules about medical examinations and inquiries. This guidance conveys that ADA rules do not interfere with or prevent employers from following the guidelines and suggestions made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or state and local public health authorities.

When it comes to accommodations, questions have primarily been about telework and leave as reasonable accommodations, as well as supports for people with mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression, which may intensify due to the pandemic. Webinar panelists noted that effective communication and flexibility are key to the reasonable accommodation process and shared the ODEP-funded Job Accommodation Network (JAN) as a resource for assistance.

Indeed, effective communication and flexibility are the foundation for a supportive workplace—as America's businesses and workers adapt to the challenges brought on by COVID-19.

It is important to note that information and guidance about COVID-19 continually evolve as conditions change. Employers are encouraged to regularly refer to these and other resources for updates, including the resources below:

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