Recent Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC) Guidance on COVID-19 Issues
EEOC Calls Out Age-Related Discriminatory Practices
The latest round of updates to its FAQs saw the EEOC specifically
identify age discrimination as a cause for concern given the
current state of affairs. The agency acknowledged that public
health authorities have identified those age 65 and over as being
at higher risk for a severe case of COVID-19 if they contract
the virus. However, because the Age Discrimination in Employment
Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from discriminating against those
40 and older, the law prohibits employers from involuntarily
excluding an individual from the workplace based on their being
65 or older – “even if the employer acted for benevolent
reasons such as protecting the employee due to higher risk of
severe illness from COVID-19.”
Further, the EEOC notes that workers age 65 and older also may
have medical conditions that would separately bring them under
the protection of the ADA. If this is the case, you should keep
in mind that these workers may request reasonable accommodation
for their disability as opposed to their age, and that you should
run through your typical interactive process with them.
Agency Also Confirms Limits of Accommodation
In other updated portions of the FAQ guidance, the EEOC confirmed
that workers are not entitled to an ADA reasonable accommodation
simply to avoid exposing a vulnerable family member to a potential
case of COVID-19. It confirmed that the federal disability rights
statute does not require you to accommodate an employee without
a disability based on any disability-related needs of a family
member or anyone else.
Other Workplace Discrimination Considerations
The latest round of updates from the EEOC also covered topics
that may find their way to your workplace during these unprecedented
Caregivers/Family Responsibility: You are permitted
to provide flexibilities to workers who are juggling work responsibilities
and parenting during this time of school closures and distance
learning (such as telework, modified schedules, or other benefits),
but need to make sure you are not treating employees differently
based on sex or other EEO-protected characteristics. “For
example,” the EEOC says, “female employees cannot
be given more favorable treatment than male employees because
of a gender-based assumption about who may have caretaking
responsibilities for children.”
Pregnancy: Just as with older workers, you may not
involuntarily exclude an employee from the workplace due to
if motivated by benevolent concern,” the EEOC says, “an
employer is not permitted to single out workers on the basis
of pregnancy for adverse employment actions, including involuntary
leave, layoff, or furlough.
A company’s best defense against
the potential expense and aggravation related to federal or state
law violations is to proactively review and revise as needed
all Human Resources policies, handbooks, hiring procedures, compensation,
benefits, training programs, communications tools and other functions.
The professionals of PHHR are ready to assist your organization
with this type of training as well as to maintain compliance
with the latest state and federal mandates.
Paul Hilton Human Resources Consulting works with our clients to insure that all required documentation is correct and sufficient to successfully defend against a claim to any unemployment compensation commission.
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