Employers: If You Want to Re-Open, Study the ADA First

A young woman wears a face mask over her mouth & nose, as well as a protective hood over her head. She looks into the camera.
The new uniform at work?

We all want to get back to work. Safely. But there are CDC Guidelines, and then there is reality.* And the reality is, at a minimum, do not re-open until you understand the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Here’s why:

  • Responding to many of your employees’ concerns regarding a safe return to work will track the reasonable accommodations framework set out by the ADA. So if you don’t know this framework, or if you’ve only got one person at your company who marginally handles this function, you could run into trouble and fast.

Here’s a 30,000 foot view on the process:

  1. An employee makes a request for a reasonable accommodation (it doesn’t need to be in writing, and it doesn’t need to be to a designated person).

Pro-tip to Employers: Now is a really good time to require all of your managers and Human Resource professionals to take refresher training on the ADA. The CDC guidelines are only useful if we actually have access to testing (and most places don’t). But the ADA gives us an actionable framework to ensure a safe and compassionate return to productivity.

*Reality check: widespread testing, the true first step to safely re-opening our economy, is currently not available. Date of this article is April 25, 2020.

Josh Klipp is an attorney, Certified Access Specialist and founder of Made Welcome, a consultancy specializing in access strategies for workplaces and events.

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