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What if I Have a Medical Condition and I'm Afraid to Come to Work Because of the Pandemic?

New York City Lawyers Assisting Employees With Health Concerns
Attorney Marjorie Mesidor

Marjorie Mesidor
New York Office
45 Broadway #430
New York, NY 10006
Phone: (212) 248-7431
Fax: (212) 901-2107

The COVID–19 pandemic has affected workers in sharply different ways based on a variety of factors, including their underlying medical conditions. If you have a medical condition, it is understandable that you may be worried about coming to work during the pandemic. Working in enclosed spaces restricts air flow and increases the chances of catching COVID-19. You should consult the New York City disability discrimination lawyers at Phillips & Associates for counsel and representation.

Higher Risk of Severe Illness

Certain people are at higher risk of suffering severe illness if they acquire COVID-19. Severe illnesses may necessitate hospitalization, a ventilator, or intensive care. If you are at increased risk of suffering a severe illness from COVID-19, you must be conscientious about looking after your health.

Generally, those who are older are at risk for severe illness from COVID–19. However, underlying health conditions such as COPD, chronic kidney disease, heart conditions, obesity, sickle cell disease, type 2 diabetes, and an immunocompromised state from solid organ transplant also put a patient at risk of severe illness. Other medical conditions that could increase the risk of severe illness include cystic fibrosis, hypertension, cerebrovascular disease, HIV, liver disease, pulmonary fibrosis, and neurological conditions.

What if I Have a Medical Condition, and I'm Afraid to Come to Work Because of the Pandemic?

The New York City Human Rights Law, the New York State Human Rights Law, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may provide some protection to those with medical conditions during the pandemic. Each of these laws requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee who has a disability; “disability” has different definitions under federal, state, and local laws. The obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation is much broader under the city law than under the federal law.

The New York City Human Rights Law forbids discrimination because of an actual or perceived disability of any person. A disability includes any physical, medical, psychological, or mental impairment, or a history of that kind of impairment. It can include an impairment of any bodily system, including the cardiovascular system, the immunological system, the skin, the digestive system, the reproductive system, or the speech organs. Employers are obliged to make reasonable accommodations to enable a person with a disability to satisfy the essential prerequisites of a job if the employer knows about the disability. Your employer can defend by arguing that you could not perform the essential prerequisites of the job even if you had a reasonable accommodation. No accommodation is categorically excluded from the range of reasonable accommodations. To not provide the reasonable accommodation, your employer must show that providing it would present an undue hardship.

Negotiating a Reasonable Accommodation

If you go to your employer, asking that you work remotely and not come into work because of your medical condition, your employer should conduct an individual, fact-specific, interactive process to look at your request for a job accommodation. Your employer should engage in this process in good faith. Your employer can use a different accommodation that would better suit its needs as long as it still reasonably accommodates your disability.

Another potential accommodation might be altering the workspace to better guard against COVID-19 transmission. For instance, it may be appropriate for an employer to designate one-way aisles in the workplace or use a Plexiglass barrier to make sure that customers and coworkers maintain an appropriate minimum distance. Other accommodations might include temporary transfers to another position, modification of your work schedule, different shifts, or restructuring of marginal job duties to keep potential COVID-19 exposure low. Unpaid leave may be another reasonable accommodation that would not pose an undue burden.

Retain an Experienced Disability Discrimination Attorney

If you have a medical condition, and you are afraid to come to work at your workplace, one of our experienced trial attorneys at Phillips & Associates may be able to represent you. We assist clients in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, the Bronx, and Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, as well as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Florida. Call us at (833) 529-3476 or complete our online form.

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