If you’re one of the 61 million adults in the United States living with a disability, the global health crisis may be impacting you more significantly than others—especially if you are in a population identified as highly vulnerable to the virus. Although it may seem like an inopportune time to request reasonable accommodations for your disability—with the world in upheaval—you have every right under the law to do so. Some conditions may be exacerbated by the virus, such as immuno-deficient conditions and mental health conditions. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protections apply—even now. Aside from some particular circumstances, the law requires your employer to accommodate you.
Can essential workers request reasonable accommodations?
The ADA protects all workers. Being an essential worker does not negate equal opportunity law. Employers must process requests for reasonable accommodations for workers in essential positions as they would for a worker in any other role.
Can you request accommodations while teleworking?
The law applies to remote workplace settings in the same manner as in-person workplaces. Absent undue hardship, your employer must provide reasonable accommodation given medical proof of your disability and reasons for the accommodation, according to set guidelines.
If you will require accommodations upon your return to the physical workplace, it may be advisable to begin the conversation with your employer while still teleworking. The earlier you facilitate the conversation, the more time there is to prepare and negotiate.
What challenges might arise due to these unprecedented times?
The timing and appointment of reasonable accommodations may prove more complex in the current climate. What did not qualify as “undue hardship” previously may qualify now, given the economic state of the nation.
Keep in mind that it may be difficult or time-consuming to receive responses from your medical providers if your employer asks for medical proof of your condition, as they almost certainly will. With the current demand in the medical field, there is less time for non-emergency matters. This could also affect the timing of your request.
The global health crisis has amended aspects of daily life, but it has not changed the fundamentals of employment and disability law. You have rights—and if those rights are violated, you have legal recourse.