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Vaccine Exemption Requests Put Legal Departments in Tricky Spot

As more employers mandate vaccines for their workforces, in-house legal departments are encountering a host of challenges, including understanding religious accommodations and minimizing litigation exposure. According to this article published in Law.com, employers should have the ability to navigate Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII-related accommodation requests. However, McDermott Partner Carole Spink said many employers have never encountered the current breadth of religious exemption requests from their workforces.

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When Is COVID-19 a Disability? Courts Tackle Issue in Bias Cases

A Pennsylvania federal judge recently allowed an employee to move forward with a discrimination lawsuit after her employer terminated her following a positive COVID-19 test result. According to this Bloomberg Law article, the judge noted that COVID-19 could be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); however, it’s unclear if the ADA also protects infected workers before they display long-haul COVID-19 symptoms. McDermott Partner Brian Mead said the employee’s presentation of long-haul COVID-19 symptoms (including loss of smell and taste) was also key in the judge’s ruling.

“The difference between having a cough or a substantial lung impairment is the difference between being covered by the ADA or not covered,” Mead said.

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Four Things To Know About COVID ‘Long-Haulers’ At Work

Research continues to shed light on COVID-19’s long-term health effects for some people, and these “post-COVID conditions” will create additional challenges for employers.

In this Law360 article, McDermott partner Carole A. Spink says employers should be aware that long-haul COVID symptoms mean additional accommodations for employees.

“As they have done throughout the pandemic, employers should have a plan for addressing potential long-term absences as a result of post-COVID effects. On the practical side, at some point employers may need to determine whether a particular situation has become such that providing a continuing reasonable accommodation would pose an undue burden,” Spink notes.

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What if a Job Applicant Discloses a Disability?

What should employers do if a job applicant voluntarily discloses a disability during an interview?

In most cases, employers cannot ask disability-related questions until after an applicant receives a conditional job offer, according to McDermott’s Laurie A. Baddon in this Society for Human Resource Management article. Once the employer makes a conditional offer, the employer can ask disability-related questions and require medical examinations for any applicant. Employers can ask applicants about their ability to perform essential job duties with or without accommodation.

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COVID-19 Laws and Regulations: A Midyear Update

As employers navigate evolving COVID-19 state and federal rules, workplaces will have to stay vigilant about changes throughout the second half of 2021. These include changes to mask mandates, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Emergency Temporary Standard and the New York Health and Essential Rights (HERO) Act.

Recent US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidance, for example, confirmed what employment lawyers had already been counseling businesses to do, according to McDermott partner Carole A. Spink in a recent Law360 article.

“The guidance was important because it did clarify that employers can provide incentives for voluntary programs. [There] was a big open question about, ‘Am I going to get into trouble because I’m trying to incentivize people to be vaccinated?'”

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How to Handle an Influx of HR Accommodation Requests

As employees begin to return to their offices, human resource teams are being inundated with accommodation requests. The reasons behind these requests include:

  • Concerns about COVID-19 exposure;
  • Convenience of working from home;
  • Lack of child care options and costs of care; and
  • Weariness of daily commute.

McDermott’s Laurie Baddon says in an article published in SHRM that employers should share their policies with their workforces well in advance to give HR and legal teams time to process and assess accommodation requests.

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COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A

Can employers mandate some employees get the vaccine and not others? Is there an obligation to consider requiring a COVID-19 test before coming back to work? What are the potential workers’ compensation claims relating to possible adverse reactions to a vaccine? Should employers mandate vaccinations?

In this article, McDermott partners Carole Spink, Joseph Mulherin, Kathleen Quinn and Troy Van Dongen answer common employer questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

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What to Do When Scared Workers Do Not Respond to Work Due to COVID-19

Some essential workers are refusing to go to work out of fear of contracting COVID-19. Their employers must weigh the employees’ legal rights and understandable health concerns with the organizations’ business needs. It can be a tough balancing act.

In a recent article, McDermott Partner Pankit Doshi said employers may relax documentation requirements due to the difficulty some employees could have obtaining access to medical providers during the pandemic and to encourage ill employees to stay away from work.

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Worker Safety, Privacy Clash as Temperature Checks Become Norm

Employers are poised to collect health data from their workforces daily as they adopt temperature checks and other screening protocols to fight the coronavirus, triggering concerns about workers’ privacy and whether the practices will continue beyond the pandemic.

“The temperature checks give employees and customers the feeling of safety and the idea that the company is doing everything possible, even if the screenings don’t protect the workplace,” said Michael Sheehan, a partner with McDermott Will & Emery, in a recent Bloomberg Law article.

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COVID-19: FAQs on Employees Experiencing Symptoms and Employee Absences

With rapid developments in local, state and federal guidance and law, the appropriate approach for each employer in relation to COVID-19 will vary depending on the nature of their work, the industries served and their location and size, among other considerations. This article outlines what employers need to know about employees experiencing symptoms and employee absences.

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