On August 29, 2022, Nick Reiter was quoted in Law360 on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated recommendation stating that people exposed to the coronavirus don't have to automatically quarantine. According to the article, the update gives employers more legal leeway to allow workers who've been exposed to the virus to populate physical workplaces.
"I think some employers are welcoming [the updated guidance] if they're in the camp of, 'Hey, we want to get our employees in the workplace more often,'" said Reiter. "I would expect that there may be some employees who say, 'Well, I have a medical condition. I'm at high risk if I contract COVID. What does this mean for me if someone has been exposed in their workplace? I don't want to be here.' It's an interesting question of whether [it's] a duty-to-accommodate situation."
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to engage with and provide "reasonable accommodations" to workers with disabilities or qualifying medical conditions as long as they don't create an undue hardship for the employer. In the context of COVID-19, one now-common accommodation that an employer may provide includes telework, either for the person exposed or for people who work closely with that individual and are at heightened risk of severe illness from contracting COVID-19.
"The duty to accommodate under the ADA is does this person need an accommodation to perform their primary job duties safely and without a risk to themselves or others," Reiter said. "I think there's going to be an inherent conflict between the duty to accommodate high-risk people in that situation versus it's not an unsafe work environment, in theory, if you're complying with the CDC guidelines," Reiter added. "Time will tell how that's going to shake out."
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