Contributed by Courtney Brooks
As coronavirus remains a threat in 2021, people are returning to work or continuing to work in stressful and uncertain environments. Educators have been dealing with many pandemic-related stressors, including returning to classrooms with the same number of students as last year, or working in crowded buildings even when they are teaching virtually. Working in unsafe conditions alone can be frustrating – but it can be even more discouraging for educators who have a medical condition that places them more at risk during a pandemic.
The Americans with Disabilities Act, commonly referred to as the ADA, prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in many areas, including employment. More specifically, the ADA requires that employers offer qualified individuals a reasonable accommodation to help the employee perform their job safely. The definition of disability under the ADA has typically been more traditional, but it may well be expanding to include medical conditions that would be seriously exacerbated or worsened by the coronavirus. School districts should be wary of denying their employees’ reasonable accommodation requests because the protections offered by the ADA are getting even stronger in the wake of the pandemic.
Educators are now in a unique position where they are asked to put their lives at risk every day – an undertaking that is not in their job description. It is important for educators to understand their rights and take advantage of opportunities to remain safe in such uncertain times. If you are an educator and you think you may be entitled to accommodations under the ADA, or if you want guidance on different leave options available to you, our office is happy to help advise you. Our lawyers have experience negotiating with school districts to obtain these accommodations, as well as handling litigation when necessary. We are very grateful for and appreciative of the incredible educators in our state. Please give us a call at 479-621-0006 if you would like to learn more about how we can help.