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COVID-19 and Disability Employment: Emerging Practices to Employ and Protect Workers

Due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, many small and large businesses face significant challenges. Among them are issues that impact the employment, health, and safety of job applicants and employees, including qualified individuals with disabilities.

For example, employers may be asking what information they can request of an employee or job applicant and the steps they must take to maintain the confidentiality of medical records. They may wonder what protocols or practices they can adopt to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace and whether there are reasonable accommodations, including telework, that will ensure equal employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities that do not pose a direct threat to the health and safety of the individual or others.

The answers to these questions can be found by understanding the obligations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities.

To help employers navigate these and other issues related to COVID-19, the Office of Disability Employment Policy-funded Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) developed a policy brief titled COVID-19 and Job Applicants and Employees with Disabilities: Emerging Practices to Employ and Protect Workers.

The tool highlights practices employers can use as workers return to the workplace during and after the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that facilitate equal employment opportunities for qualified individuals with disabilities—while protecting all employees' health and safety. It may be useful to a variety of employer representatives such as human resources, equal employment opportunity, and diversity and inclusion professionals so that all involved understand the different perspectives that should be considered.

To learn more, access the policy brief or visit the EARN website.