Podcast Episode 8

Episode details

National legal experts Tamika Newson and Ellen McCann discuss recent guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on how the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) impacts employers in the COVID-19 environment. Early on, the EEOC declared COVID-19 as a “direct threat” to the workplace. This means if an employee with COVID-19 presents themselves in the workplace, employers have an opportunity under the ADA to ask specific questions about their symptoms, direct them to not come to the workplace, and monitor when and how they return to work. We discuss this new guidance and best practices for granting accommodations under the ADA during the pandemic.

  • In its recent guidance, the EEOC addressed underlying health conditions, and mental health in particular, noting that this may be an area where potential exposure will require employers to provide accommodations. [03:33]
  • The EEOC recently clarified that employers are permitted to ask for medical information in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it acknowledged that employers may not be able to get the same records as in normal times and encourages employers to make reasonable decisions. [04:34]
  • Employers cannot make assumptions based on who they think is vulnerable — such as people 65 and older or pregnant women. Employees, however, can let their employers know if they have concerns and ask for accommodations. [06:51]
  • What constitutes a reasonable accommodation? The EEOC is encouraging employers to make any accommodations they can to keep people with disabilities in the workforce, but the Commission is also being reasonable in its definition of undue hardship in this economic environment. [08:13]
  • Accommodations granted during this time can be made on a temporary basis. Employers can revisit determinations as the pandemic situation changes. [10:23]
  • For more information, visit these EEOC resources:

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Tamika Newson headshot

Tamika Newson

Assistant Vice President and Legal Counsel, Unum's Employment Law Group

Tamika Newson joined Unum after 22 years of employment-law counseling and litigation as a partner in several large law firms. Prior to joining Unum, she litigated employment matters nationwide. Tamika advises Human Resources on all employment-related legal issues, with particular emphasis on FMLA, ADA, leaves of absence, wage/hour compliance, military leaves, restrictive covenants and employee-relations issues. She also provides daily legal support to Unum's Leave Management Center and its ADA Services Center. Tamika received her BA from DePauw University and her JD from Hamline University School of Law (now Mitchell Hamline). She is a certified trainer for CE credit and is a frequent national speaker on FMLA and ADA. She has been selected as a “Best Lawyer in America” in the area of employment law every year from 2013 to 2019.

Ellen McCann headshot

Ellen McCann

Assistant Vice President, Leave Solutions — Unum Group

Ellen McCann serves as a leading expert in applying benefits and benefits technology to power modern solutions to more effective employee leave programs, stronger regulatory compliance and enhanced digital HR transformation. In this role, she combines more than 30 years of employment law experience with practical knowledge of the complexities of leave and accommodation management to help develop and create solutions that enable employers to address the challenges of leave and accommodations. She is an acclaimed national speaker on leave management issues including FMLA and ADA, and is a certified trainer for SHRM and CE credit.

About the host

Clare Morin headshot

Clare Morin

Unum Content Marketing Manager

Clare Morin is the Content Marketing Manager at Unum and a journalist who’s spent the last 20 years interviewing hundreds of thought leaders on topics ranging from wellness to culture, finance, human resources and technology. Born in the UK, raised in Hong Kong and based in the U.S. since 2009, she brings a global outlook to the HR Trends studio.

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