New EEOC Guidance Addresses Return to Work for Employees with Preexisting Medical Conditions

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission this week issued additional guidance clarifying how employers should handle employees returning to the workplace who have a preexisting medical condition that could place them at a higher risk for severe illness if they contract COVID-19. The guidance clarifies that if an employee does not request a reasonable accommodation, there is no mandate for an employer to take action.

The guidance also states that an employer may not exclude the employee from returning to work solely because the employee has a medical condition unless that condition poses a “direct threat” to the employee’s health that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation. The medical condition must pose a “significant risk of substantial harm” to the employee’s health, based on an individualized assessment, the EEOC said. Reasonable accommodations may include additional or enhanced personal protective equipment, erecting physical barriers separating employees and the elimination or substitution of “marginal” functions from the employee’s job duties.