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Guidance Targets Pandemic-Related Questions about [Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)]

October 7, 2009

Businesses that take steps to protect workers during a pandemic have worried about staying in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and federal officials have responded by issuing new guidance that addresses many of the issues.

One of the top business worries is protecting workers who have underlying health conditions, but according to the new 14-page guidance document from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), issued on Oct 5, employers are barred from asking about chronic conditions unless the pandemic becomes severe.

The guidance helps steer employers away from asking "disability related" questions, such as asking an employee if he or she has immune system compromise, which might suggest cancer or HIV.

It also clarifies if pandemic flu is a "direct threat" according to ADA rules. A direct threat might trigger disability medical questions or medical examinations.

The EEOC guidance says the flu isn't considered a direct threat if health authorities say the illness is like seasonal influenza or patterns that were seen in the spring and summer wave. However, the pandemic would be considered a direct threat if public officials determine it has become more severe.

See also:

Oct 5 - Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Oct 6 - Employment Discrimination and the 2009 H1N1 Flu Virus (Swine Flu)

News source: Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy (CIDRAP)