Nearly two years after the COVID-19 pandemic began, the omicron variant of the once-novel coronavirus is sweeping the U.S., causing more and more infections every day. Millions living in the U.S. have already been sick with COVID-19 at least once, forcing them to use sick leave, vacation time, or simply not show up for work to recover and prevent the spread of the virus.
While employers may have been more responsive to their workers’ needs during the pandemic’s opening salvo, patience is wearing thinner each day. Now that we’re almost two full years into the pandemic that brought the U.S. economy to a near standstill, many businesses are fighting tooth and nail to remain productive and profitable.
In employers’ eyes, employees who need to take time off to recover from COVID-19 and avoid infecting their coworkers are a threat to productivity. This has led many workers to wonder if they can get fired for getting sick with COVID-19, requesting leave to recover from the disease, or actually taking unapproved time off to recover.
Although this may happen, it may not be legal. On Dec. 14, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) clarified the conditions when COVID-19 may be considered a disability as protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
It appears that employees are protected from retaliation under the following circumstances:
- Their COVID-19 infection is more severe than one with mild symptoms and resolves within a few weeks.
- Impairments caused by a COVID-19 infection are considered disabilities, even if the COVID-19 infection itself wasn’t so severe to be considered a disability.
- An employee who contracted COVID-19 is no longer infectious and medically able to return to work without posing a threat to others.
Additionally, the EEOC clarified that employees who contact COVID-19 are not automatically entitled to reasonable accommodation. Instead, they may only reasonably expect it when a disability requires it and the accommodation doesn’t present an employer with undue hardship.
Contact an Attorney Today!
If an employee is fired for getting COVID-19 in violation of the state and federal laws that protect employees, they may have a valid wrongful termination claim. If you believe you are in this situation, our attorney at K2 Employment Law may be able to help.
Contact us online to request a consultation and learn more.