• Vennum Law

Anti-Discrimination Policies Under the EEOC: Guidance for Managers

Updated: May 21, 2020

As North Carolinians begin to return to work, many employers may be wondering about their legal requirements for maintaining the sanitation of the workplace while respecting employee rights. While many of the laws and regulations about workplace safety remain the same, employers should understand some new guidelines while preparing to integrate their employees back to the workplace.

EEOC Guidance: Employers must also be mindful of complying with anti-discrimination workplace laws. The EEOC has provided guidelines for employers to follow during the COVID-19 pandemic, summarized below: 

  • Disability Inquiries: The ADA protects workers from being discriminated against due to a disability. An employer may ask an employee about their symptoms or symptoms that are generally related to COVID-19. Additionally, employers can require employees to stay home, a doctor's note to return to work, and administer a body temperature or COVID-19 test.

  • Medical Information: The ADA dictates that an employee’s medical information should be stored separately from the employee’s personnel file. Employers always have a responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of this information. 

  • Hiring and Onboarding: When hiring employers may screen possible candidates for symptoms of COVID-19, require a pre-employment medical exam, delay the work start date for an employee with COVID-19, withdraw an offer to a candidate who has COVID-19 symptoms and needs them to start immediately. However, employers cannot deny or postpone employment for people above the age of 65 or those who are pregnant simply because they have been identified as higher at risk.

  • Reasonable Accommodation: Employers are always required to provide reasonable accommodation to employees with disabilities, absent undue hardship. Therefore, employers must do their best to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities that put them at higher risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms or employees with mental health conditions.

  • Harassment due to Race, National Origin, or other Protected Classes: Employers should take steps to ensure that fear of COVID-19 is not directed at workers of protected classes. Employers should be proactive in talking to their employees about the federal EEO laws preventing discrimination in the workplace as well as making sure that the company has effective anti-harassment policies in place.

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