In general, an employer needs to engage in an interactive process with an employee who is disabled, in order to reach an agreement on what type of accommodation can be provided to the employee to meet both the employer and the individual’s needs.
During the pandemic, employers have an obligation to re-engage in the interactive process to make sure employees with disabilities have reasonable accommodations under these new circumstances. For example, if your employee has a condition that makes them more susceptible to the virus, and they can complete their job from home, a reasonable accommodation could be offering teleworking.
Additionally, some employees who have underlying conditions, but never needed an accommodation in the past, may need one now. However, because so many offices and businesses are closed at the moment, it may be difficult for an employee to provide the medical documentation an employer typically requires. If you have an employee that is claiming an underlying condition and asking for an accommodation, you can consider accepting other forms of verification beyond a doctor’s note-like insurance receipts. In some cases, you may need to provide an accommodation even if an employee cannot provide any documentation under the current circumstances and ask that they provide it as soon as they are able instead.
Keep in mind that as the situation continues to evolve, there will be new guidance from the EEOC. Additionally, depending on your state, there may be local laws that provide additional protections for employees. If you have a different question, or you would like further guidance on best practices during the pandemic, contact us.