Tuesday, May 16, 2023

EEOC issues its final updates to its Covid-19 guidance

With the Covid-19 National and Public Health Emergencies now concluded, the EEOC just published what should be its final updates to its COVID-19 technical assistance, What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.

These updates address employers' ongoing obligations to employees related to Covid-19 in the workplace.

According to the EEOC, key updates include the following:
  • A recognition that the end of the Covid-19 public health emergency does not mean employers can automatically terminate reasonable accommodations that were provided to employees because to pandemic-related circumstances. Employers should instead evaluate accommodations granted during the public health emergency, and, in consultation with the employee, assess whether there continues to be a need for reasonable accommodation based on individualized circumstances.
  • For employees with Long Covid, the updates include common examples of possible reasonable accommodations, including a quiet workspace, use of noise cancelling devices, and uninterrupted worktime to address brain fog; alternative lighting and reducing glare to address headaches; rest breaks to address joint pain or shortness of breath; a flexible schedule or telework to address fatigue; and removal of "marginal functions" that involve physical exertion to address shortness of breath. 
  • For employers, the updates include tips about remaining vigilant for Covid-related harassment of applicants or employees with a disability-related need to continue wearing a face mask or take other Covid-19 precautions at work.

As the EEOC notes, yesterday's updates were its 21st to its Covid-related guidance. Kudos to the EEOC for being on the forefront of pandemic workplace issues and doing an excellent job in keeping employers updated and informed for the past three-plus years.

As the EEOC's updated guidance makes clear, just because the Covid emergency has ended doesn't mean that employers' Covid-related obligations have also ended. Employers that think otherwise and ignore issues such as reasonable accommodations and protected-class harassment that relate to Covid-19 do so at their own peril.