While we’re slowly but surely recovering from the effects of the pandemic, fallout from COVID-19 will continue for some time. And this is evident in the various legal problems that are cropping up for employers.
Here’s a lawsuit the EEOC recently filed against a company that didn’t properly accommodate an employee who was at high risk of contracting COVID-19.
Symptoms improved at home
Ronisha Moncrief worked as a manager for ISS Facility Services, Inc. She had a lung condition and high blood pressure, which made walking and breathing difficult.
When the pandemic first began, Moncrief was sent to work remotely, along with the rest of the staff. In June 2020, ISS required employees to come back to the workplace. Moncrief was evaluated by her doctor, who said her symptoms improved while she was working from home, and she should continue to work remotely.
Furthermore, her health conditions put her at high risk of contracting COVID-19, so she should avoid being around her co-workers. Her in-office work setup included sharing a desk with several people.
As an accommodation, Moncrief wanted the ability to work remotely two days a week and to take frequent breaks while in the office, but ISS denied her request. A few weeks later, Moncrief was terminated for performance issues. The EEOC filed a lawsuit on Moncrief’s behalf, noting that the company had granted other employees’ work-from-home requests. The lawsuit is currently pending.
Under the ADA, employers need to grant disabled employees reasonable accommodations. But remote work isn’t inherently reasonable. Many jobs require an in-person presence.
However, remote work requests are reasonable in some circumstances. And after the initial COVID-19 shutdowns, it’s now a lot easier for employees to argue that working from home is doable. Employers should be prepared to handle more remote work accommodation requests, and — depending on the employee — you may have to grant them.