EEOC Updates COVID-19 Return To Work Q&A, Encourages Employers To Be “Creative And Flexible” With Accommodations

Bernadette Hunton
Bernadette Hunton

The EEOC has updated the Return To Work (G.3 & G.5) section of its Q&A Guidance regarding workplace accommodations for individuals deemed high-risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The guidance essentially reminds employers to continue to follow normal interactive processes for identifying reasonable accommodations,  and encourages employers to be “creative and flexible” in their approach to identifying such accommodations.

Below is a summary of that information:

G.3. What does an employee need to do in order to request reasonable accommodation from her employer because she has one of the medical conditions that CDC says may put her at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19?

The employee (or a third party such a health care provider) must let the employer know that the employee needs a change related to a medical condition.  (No “magic words” such as reasonable accommodation or specific reference to the ADA are required.)

The employer in response may ask questions or seek medical documentation to help determine whether an employee has a disability and if there is a reasonable accommodation, absent undue hardship, that it can provide.

G.5. What are examples of accommodation that, absent undue hardship, may eliminate (or reduce to an acceptable level) a direct threat to self?

Accommodations may include:

  • Additional or enhanced protective gowns, masks, gloves, or other gear beyond what the employer may generally provide to employees returning to its workplace;
  • Additional or enhanced protective measures, including separation barriers between coworkers and/or the public;
  • Elimination or substitution of particular “marginal” functions (less critical or incidental job duties as distinguished from the “essential” functions of a particular position);
  • Temporary modification of work schedules to decrease contact with the public or coworkers or relocation of an employee to a different space to perform work.



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