July 26 is the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which has required employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. It is important to understand that “invisible” disabilities are covered by the ADA and must be addressed by employers. Invisible disabilities include conditions such as diabetes, chronic fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder, and back problems.
Here are some ways to protect these employees, particularly during a pandemic:
- Employees with these disabilities may be at high risk of contracting COVID-19. The employer must determine how to keep these workers safe, such as allowing them to work from home or bring emotional support animals to the office. At the same time, accommodations such as the use of plexiglass barriers and private bathrooms might be helpful.
- Employers are not required under ADA to invite accommodation requests, but they must respond to any accommodation request they receive. However, being proactive can prevent problems down the road.
- Train managers and supervisors about how to handle requests for accommodations.
- As part of a COVID-19 return-to-work strategy, clearly define what an “essential worker” is and how much an employee’s productivity relies on accessing resource only available in the office.
- Consider what impact a return to the office versus continued remote work might have on employees’ mental health.