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Accommodating the Return to Work

Client Alert

It has been two months since Ohio declared coronavirus an emergency, and although it is clear things will not be fully back to "normal" anytime soon, the state of Ohio is rolling out the reopening process for businesses with a number of new guidelines and restrictions. As businesses reopen, employers and employees will face difficult decisions about returning to work, including reasonable accommodation concerns under the Americans with Disabilities Act and state law equivalents. The EEOC recently updated its question and answer document with additional guidance regarding this issue, available here.   

As explained in prior BMD client alerts, an employee's fear of coronavirus, by itself, does not provide a legal basis for accommodation or refusal to work. For a discussion of how an employee's refusal to work or return to work affects the analysis of unemployment claims, see Bryan Meek's article available here. However, if an employee has an underlying medical condition that puts them at higher risk for severe illness due to coronavirus, they may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation. For example, having an immuno-compromised condition greatly increases the risk for an employee who regularly interacts with coworkers or the public. The employee should communicate to their employer regarding the medical condition and corresponding need, and the employer may then ask questions or request medical documentation to determine if a reasonable accommodation is appropriate. Questions may include how the disability creates a limitation, how the requested accommodation will address the limitation, and whether other forms of accommodation could be effective in enabling the employee to perform essential job functions.   

The EEOC's updated Q&A provides a number of examples of accommodations for individuals at higher risk related to coronavirus, including the following:

  • additional or enhanced protective gowns, masks, gloves, or modified protective gear;
  • barriers or increased space providing separation between an employee with a disability and others;
  • elimination or substitution of particular “marginal” job functions (note that reasonable accommodation does not require elimination of "essential" job functions);
  • temporary modification of work schedules or remote work; or
  • relocating an employee's work location or station.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, and the EEOC is encouraging employers and employees to be "creative and flexible" in working out accommodations. As with any other accommodation request, employers should engage in an interactive process with their employees. There is no legal obligation to provide a particular accommodation if it poses an "undue hardship" on the employer or there is a "direct threat" to health or safety to the individual or others that cannot be eliminated by reasonable accommodation. Although coronavirus has significantly affected the analysis of reasonable accommodation and direct threat, the same framework for the interactive process remains in place and should be utilized. 

For more information, please contact Russell Rendall at 216.658.2205 or rtrendall@bmdllc.com.


Community Banks: Collaboration, not isolation, is the key to protecting/ enhancing the cannabis business you pioneered

As we prepare for the plenary session of the informal institutional cannabis lenders community announced in my previous article, I am pleased to advise that participants now include 5 of the best-known dedicated loan funds; a select group of commercial banks ranging in size from single state community banks to mid-size regionals making cannabis loans into the mid-8 figures; and, a syndicator of credit union cannabis loans.

Inflation Reduction Act: Healthcare Provisions

On August 16, 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law the Inflation Reduction Act (the “Act”), a landmark climate, healthcare, and tax bill. Though the Act’s climate provisions have received most of the media attention, the healthcare aspects of the Act present some of the most significant changes to the American healthcare system since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

The Current State of Assignment of Benefits Litigation in Florida

On May 25, 2022, Florida lawmakers approved property insurance reforms that remove attorney’s fees, with respect to assignment of benefits (“AOB”) property insurance litigation. One-way attorney’s fees are a longstanding problem in Florida and the reforms come at a time when AOB litigation increasingly affects homeowners in a negative way.

Proposed Community Revitalization Grants for Ohio Projects

Jason A. Butterworth client alert ohio tax credits historic preservation tax credits community revitalization grants

Ohio Senate Bill 225 Paves the Way for Greater Investment in Opportunity Zones and Historic Districts

Ohio Senate Bill 225 is poised to make dramatic enhancements to certain tax credit programs in Ohio, specifically those surrounding investments in “Opportunity Funds” and historic buildings. Signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine in June 2022, the Bill is positive news for real estate developers working to revitalize Ohio communities with investment and rehabilitation projects.