Client Alerts, News Articles & Blog Posts

Everything you need to know about BMD and the industry.

Accommodating the Return to Work

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.

Back to Work: Employer Documents

The return of the workforce brings a renewed set of documentation requirements for employers, particularly those employers with fewer than 500 employees and any companies who received PPP funds. Back in March, employers needed a COVID-19 Leave Form and a Remote Work Policy, but things have changed.

PPP Loan Forgiveness Application Details

As PPP loan recipients start to take stock of how they’ve used funds over the eight-week period, many businesses are eager to move ahead with the forgiveness portion of the program. How much of the loan will be forgiven is determined by the Small Business Administration (“SBA”), as provided in the CARES Act.[1] Over the weekend, the Department of Treasury released details on the forgiveness application, which can be found here.

CARES Act and Financial Institutions – Litigation Update

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) and the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) have allowed some businesses to remain operational during the COVID-19 pandemic. For these businesses, obtaining access to funds under these programs has proved vital.

A Potential Childcare Disruption for Rehired Employees

As businesses reopen, employers with fewer than 500 employees need to brush up on the FFCRA Paid Leave rules, including a potential disruption to your return to operations.

With Summer Vacation on the Way, Are Employees Still Entitled to Childcare Leave under EFMLEA?

Distance learning/homeschooling is finally starting to wrap-up for millions of students across America, a perhaps welcomed end for many, and summer vacation will soon begin. As summer vacation begins, your employees may have questions as to whether they qualify for child care leave under the expanded FMLA (“EFMLEA”), which many employees used over the last few months to receive partial compensation while they were away from work to care for their children. Now, employers with fewer than 500 employees must take note of additional guidance recently published concerning qualification for childcare leave.