Duckworth, Hassan Urge Department of Labor to Provide Support for Workers with Disabilities During COVID-19 Pandemic
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) yesterday urged the Department of Labor (DOL) to better support workers who experience disabilities and may be at particular risk as a result of COVID-19. In a letter to DOL Secretary Eugene Scalia cosigned by 11 of their Senate colleagues, the senators made clear that people with disabilities have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to access reasonable accommodations that can help protect their health and the right tools to work remotely if needed.
“Many individuals who experience disabilities may be at a greater risk for serious complications from COVID-19,” the Members wrote. “In light of this, workers with disabilities may seek to work remotely or access leave time before the virus is present in their communities. Additionally, workers who experience disabilities may seek additional accommodations for their health needs that may include reduced work schedules to accommodate more frequent visits to or consultations with health care providers, additional technology needed to be able to work remotely, support for mental health needs due to increased anxiety, or additional cleaning procedures to maintain a safe workplace for their protection.”
The senators asked the DOL for details on what it is doing to ensure that individuals who experience disabilities know their rights as it pertains to the ADA so that they can receive proper medical attention and support without worrying that it will impact their employment. The letter also asks for details on the DOL’s communication with employers to ensure that they are following the requirements under the ADA.
The letter was also signed by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
A full copy of the letter is available below and online here.
The Honorable Eugene Scalia
Secretary of Labor
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20210
Dear Secretary Scalia:
We write to request more information about how the Department of Labor (the Department) is preparing for and responding to the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States and how it impacts workers who experience disabilities, including those who are immunocompromised. During this time, federal agencies must make evidence-based decisions and clearly communicate with the public in a timely way to protect Americans, especially those who may face unique risks and challenges as a result of this virus.
Many individuals who experience disabilities may be at a greater risk for serious complications from COVID-19. In light of this, workers with disabilities may seek to work remotely or access leave time before the virus is present in their communities. Additionally, workers who experience disabilities may seek additional accommodations for their health needs that may include reduced work schedules to accommodate more frequent visits to or consultations with health care providers, additional technology needed to be able to work remotely, support for mental health needs due to increased anxiety, or additional cleaning procedures to maintain a safe workplace for their protection. These workers have rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that protect them from workplace discrimination and require that they have access to reasonable accommodations. During the COVID-19 outbreak, it is especially important for workers and employers to understand these rights.
It is critical that experts across federal agencies work together to disseminate scientific and fact- based information to the public as decisions are made in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. In order to understand more about the Department’s efforts to support workers who experience disabilities and to provide employers with appropriate guidance, we request a response to the following questions no later than March 26, 2020:
- What guidance is being provided to workers on their rights under the ADA and the importance of understanding their rights to request and access necessary accommodations during the COVID-19 outbreak?
- What additional guidance is being provided to employers on workers’ rights under the ADA and their obligations to provide accommodations to workers during the COVID-19 outbreak?
- What guidance is being provided to workers and employers regarding disability disclosure and the rights of workers to maintain privacy regarding their disability and health status, other than necessary disclosure when requesting accommodations?
- Is the Department providing guidance with best practices on how to support workers who experience disabilities when working remotely and how to provide accommodations in their remote work locations?
- What guidance is being provided to employers regarding additional family and medical leave for workers with disabilities and for family members who may need to stay home to care for children who experience disabilities, in particular those who are immunocompromised?
- What steps is the Department taking with respect to its own employees or contractors with disabilities to inform them of their rights and access to accommodations during the COVID-19 outbreak?
- What steps has the Department taken to coordinate with the Office of Personnel Management to ensure that federal employees who experience disabilities across the federal government are aware of their rights and to ensure that agencies and contractors are aware of their responsibilities under the ADA?
It is important that workers who experience disabilities have accurate information about their rights and receive necessary accommodations from their employers as our country responds to the spread of COVID-19. We appreciate your attention to this matter.
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