November 18, 2022

Pandemic-related ADA Accommodation Claims Up

The number of lawsuits filed by workers alleging their employers have not accommodated their needs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other state and local statutes far outnumbers any other kind of charges stemming from the COVID-19 crisis, according to Judy Keenan, the deputy director of the New York EEOC office.

The NY office oversees bias claims for the state as well as the New England region, and Keenan noted at an NYC Bar Association meeting that her office has seen a significant number of accommodation cases. 

Keenan emphasized that employers can minimize their ADA violations through a variety of accommodation strategies, such as allowing workers concerned about their health to continue telecommuting until proper precautions can be enacted at the workplace. 

Additionally, she noted, many of the measures that can help accommodate disabled workers are the same ones that will provide workplace safety for all employees, such as ensuring proper social distancing space, providing PPE and sanitizing supplies, and developing schedules that prevent workplace overcrowding.

Echoing Keenan has been the NYS Human Rights Division general counsel Caroline Downey, who confirmed that most of the cases they were looking at included workplace accommodation issues. 

As the state continues to reopen, expect more complaints to center around the issue of caregiving, particularly when employees are requested to return to work but have significant family caregiving obligations.

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