On June 11th, 2020, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) posted an updated and expanded technical assistance publication addressing questions that fall under federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The publication, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws,” provides approaches employers may adopt as they plan for employees returning to the workplace, including providing information to all employees about who to contact with requests for disability accommodation or other flexibilities, and inviting employees to make any requests in advance that the employer will consider on an individualized basis. There are also new recommendations about steps employers may take to prevent and address the harassment of employees who either are or are perceived to be of Chinese or other Asian national origin. These recommendations include a reminder that workplace harassment may occur while employees are teleworking.
Organized in a “question and answer” format, the frequently-updated resource covers topics important to employers today dealing with the employment ramifications of COVID-19. The subject matter discussed all falls under the EEOC’s enforcement of workplace anti-discrimination laws including:
- the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA);
- the Rehabilitation Act;
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII);
- the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); and
- the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
While the majority of these laws apply only to businesses with a specific number of employees, (ADA, GINA, and Title VII apply to employers with 15 or more employees; ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees) there might also be equivalent state laws that need to be followed. Some of these state laws could apply to small employers with as few as 1 employee, depending on the state. State fair employment practices agencies that enforce these state anti-discrimination laws almost always rely on EEOC guidance when applying and enforcing their own provisions regarding workplace harassment and discrimination.
Finally, the EEOC wants to remind employers that all EEO laws are in full effect during the time of the global coronavirus pandemic. Just as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, so does the guidance provided by the EEOC and other government agencies. To keep up to date on any releases involving workplace anti-discrimination laws as businesses begin to reopen, employers can visit the EEOC Newsroom webpage for any new and important information.