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Business Sense: Workplace Accommodations During COVID-19

August 24, 2020
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP)

As America continues to reopen and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses of all sizes find new, innovative ways to operate while maintaining the health and safety of their employees. These now-familiar strategies include teleworking, physical distancing, and reasonable accommodations for those at higher risk of developing complications from COVID-19.

A reasonable accommodation is a modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things usually are done that enables an individual with a disability to perform essential job duties. For many workers with disabilities, such accommodations have always been key to fostering success and productivity on the job — and they are proving particularly relevant today as businesses help individuals with disabilities return to work.

In response to inquiries on the topic, the Office of Disability Employment Policy-supported Job Accommodation Network (JAN) published a blog post titled “Accommodation Strategies for Returning to Work During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The post outlines general strategies for accommodating employees with disabilities in the following categories: General Solutions for Limiting the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19, Solutions to Address Physical Distancing Needs, and Solutions to Address Communication Needs. Examples include requiring employees to stay home if sick or exhibiting symptoms of illness, providing cloth face coverings and gloves, staggering or spacing-out workstations, and allowing communication among employees and customers using remote methods.

The blog also emphasizes that businesses should consult the evolving guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local public health authorities regarding resuming business operations, returning employees to work, and workplace safety. The CDC and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration provide worker safety and support guidance for a variety of workplace settings.

To learn more about reasonable accommodations — whether in the context of COVID-19 or any circumstance — contact JAN.

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