Commentary

Is Working From Home a Reasonable Accommodation to Prevent Exposure to COVID-19?

We asked an employee who was working from home to return to the office because he or she failed to perform some job duties. Now, in the middle of a disciplinary process, he or she has submitted a request to continue to work from home as a reasonable accommodation to prevent exposure to COVID-19.  Are we required to grant this request?

Fear of exposure to COVID-19 is not a disability.  However, if he or she has an underlying disability that causes him or her to be at higher risk from the virus or that has been exacerbated by the outbreak, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has stated you should consider whether continued telework might be a reasonable accommodation.  You should engage in the interactive process.  This includes: understand the basis of his or her concern; determine whether he or she has a mental disability; and, if so, explore possible accommodations that would minimize his or her potential for exposure.  Through discussions with the employee and his or her healthcare provider, you may determine you can adequately reduce the potential for exposure through accommodations that permit him or her to work safely in the office.

Whether he or she returns to work or continues to telework, you’re entitled to hold him or her to the workload and quality standards you apply to others in his or her position and continue with the disciplinary process you have begun.