There is no question that COVID-19 changed how we do business in America. Within three months, the increase in the number of companies that allow employees to work from home has been compared to a tsunami. So, where does this leave people with a disability? What will happen to the people who are in the claims process for long term disability benefits? Let’s explore what we know.
The Explosion of Work From Home
The most dramatic change that we have seen in the workplace is the sweeping work-from-home policies. Within 90 days, most companies that don’t require direct contact with customers have been able to set up employees with remote access to company platforms. Allowing employees to work from home has been a mission for disability advocates for years. The coronavirus pandemic made it a reality in less than three months. Even late-night talk show hosts and media outlets are broadcasting from their living rooms instead of in the studios. But as companies slowly transition back to the workplace, what effect will this have on disabled individuals?
New Insurance Company Tactics
Disability insurance companies have been notorious for finding new ways to deny claims. For example, the insurance company investigators quickly realized that social media is a great place to gather evidence against claimants. With the rise of the work from home options, insurance companies could use this against claimants. Insurance companies may try to deny your claim citing you can work from home. But what legal obligations will your employer have to offer you work from home options? Will your employer have work from home jobs available after the pandemic? These are questions that we don’t have the answers to yet.
Know Your Disability Rights
Employers have to make a lot of tough decisions right now. But that does not give them the right to ignore The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines and the rights of their disabled employees. ADA regulations state that employers must offer reasonable accommodations to disabled workers as long as it does not cause undue hardship or financial burden on the employer. For example, if you are being required to work from home but you do not have an updated computer or internet connection, your employer doesn’t have to buy you a new computer and have internet service installed at your house, but they will need to provide you with a loaner laptop and a Wi-Fi hotspot. That would be considered a reasonable accommodation. For more information, check out the EEOC’s Pandemic Preparedness in the workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act | US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
COVID-19 and Disabilities in the Workplace FAQ’s
Can my employer require temperature checks before my work shift? Yes. While you maybe see this as a violation of your medical rights, it is legal for employers to monitor employees to keep everyone in the workplace safe.
Can my employer require me to take a COVID-19 test? Yes. Employers can require you to take a medical test such as the COVID-19 screening to protect the people in the workplace. This is actually not new to the coronavirus pandemic. For decades, new hires at many long term care facilities have been required to take a (Tuberculosis) TB test before being offered a position. TB is also a highly contagious lung disease that could be extremely dangerous to high-risk patients.
I’m a high-risk person for COVID-19. Can I sue my employer if they won’t let me work from home? You can file a complaint with the EEOC to look into your claim. It’s a good idea to send a request for accommodation to your employer that explains your health and safety concerns. Employers will often work with you on accommodations if they realize that you are willing to file a complaint. Your essential job duties will also play an important role in your ability to work from home.
I’m scared to go back to work. Do I have to return to work? Yes. Unless your employer allows you to work from home or you have an underlying health condition, you are required to return to work. You may ask your employer if you can work from home or take leave until you feel it’s safe to return, but this will be at your employer’s discretion.
The Ortiz Law Firm offers a free consultation with no obligation to use our firm. During the call, you can ask any questions you have, and we will answer them. The Ortiz Law Firm has successfully represented people in disability cases across the United States. To see how we can help you win your long-term disability case, call us at (888) 321- 8131.