DOL wants to know: Is the duration of COVID-19 creating challenges for the workforce?

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The U.S. Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, announced July 12 the launch of a “virtual crowdsourcing event” aimed at gathering feedback from employees and employers on the impact of the long COVID-19 in the workplace.

Under the heading “Understanding and Addressing Workplace Challenges Related to the Long COVID”, the department poses a series of questions grouped into five categories:

  • What challenges do employees with long-term COVID-19 face in the workplace, and how can the DOL help overcome them?
  • What challenges do employers face when supporting employees with long-term COVID-19?
  • How can the DOL best inform employees and employers of the latest longstanding COVID-19 research, practices and emerging resources?
  • Which organizations should be involved in developing solutions for those affected by the long COVID-19?
  • If you are a worker with long COVID-19, have you had difficulty obtaining disability benefits from your employer-sponsored disability plans? If so, what type of challenges do you face? What are the reasons given for the denial of benefits?

“The online dialogue is part of our ongoing commitment to supporting workers with long-term COVID, as well as their employers,” said Taryn M. Williams, Assistant Secretary of Labor for the Office of Disability Employment Policy. from the DOL, to HR Dive in an email. the feedback we receive will improve our understanding of the long-standing COVID-related workplace challenges and inform our efforts to address these challenges, whether through education, tools, or programs. groups, and others as we collaborate on longstanding COVID-related policies, practices and initiatives.

The online event will be open to stakeholders for a period of 30 days, Williams said.

A legal discussion is emerging around the long COVID-19 and its classification as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The CDC and the US Department of Justice previously issued directives confirming that long COVID-19 may constitute an ADA-defined disability if the condition significantly limits one or more major life activities.

During a virtual event in April, an official from the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission advised employers to be “flexible, often creative” in working with employees affected by COVID-19 or the long COVID-19. Earlier, sources told HR Dive that employers may need to take an individualized approach when determining how to accommodate employees with long-term COVID-19.

Separately, the EEOC last week updated its COVID-19 Technical Assistance Manual to state its position that employers must now justify compulsory coronavirus screening for employees. This contrasted with the agency’s previous position that the ADA’s standard for medical examinations still permitted COVID-19 testing at an employer’s workplace.

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