June 15, 2020

EEOC Updates COVID-19 Employment Guidance, OSHA Weighs In On Face Coverings

On June 11, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and other equal employment laws as they related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new guidance is available here.

The EEOC also explains how employers should handle employees’ return to work, specifically, whether an accommodation is required for an employee who is not disabled, but whose family member may be at high risk for contracting COVID-19. The guidance says, “Although the ADA prohibits discrimination based on association with an individual with a disability, that protection is limited to disparate treatment or harassment.  The ADA does not require that an employer accommodate an employee without a disability based on the disability-related needs of a family member or other person with whom she is associated.”

The guidance also notes that, “of course, an employer is free to provide such flexibilities if it chooses to do so,” but an “employer choosing to offer additional flexibilities beyond what the law requires should be careful not to engage in disparate treatment on a protected EEO basis.”

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), meanwhile, published a series of frequently asked questions and answers regarding the use of masks in the workplace. The new guidance outlines the differences between cloth face coverings, surgical masks, and respirators and reminds employers not to use surgical masks or cloth face coverings when respirators are needed.

The guidance also notes the need for social distancing measures, even when workers are wearing cloth face coverings, and recommends following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on washing face coverings. Click here to read that guidance.