Returning to Work
An Employee’s Guide from CCDC
- Questions to Ask
- Talk to Your Employer
- Reasonable Accommodations
- Other Options
- Reporting an Unsafe Work Environment
CCDC has received questions about returning to work as it relates to people with disabilities. Our state has a return to work guidance that is relevant to unemployment. The EEOC has also issued guidance about returning to work. It is in Section G: Return to Work.
People with disabilities and those we live with have vastly different experiences and needs. Therefore, this is not intended to be directive or legal guidance. This document should help people think about what questions they need to ask of themselves and their employers.
Questions to Ask
- Do you have a disability?
- The ADA defines disability as a substantial impairment in a major life activity.
- People who are considered disabled or have a record or history of disability are also covered under anti-discrimination laws.
- If yes, does your particular disability make you vulnerable or at risk if you get COVID-19?
- Possible disabilities that put you at increased risk include respiratory disabilities, heart conditions, neurological impairments, and chronic illnesses.
- Do you live with someone with a disability?
- If yes, does that disability make the person vulnerable or at risk if they get COVID-19?
- Are you over 60?
- Do you live with someone over 60?
Answering “Yes” to any of these questions means you have additional things to think about with regard to returning to work.
Talk to Your Employer
OSHA Guidance for Employers
Questions to ask yourself and your employer:
- Can my job be done remotely?
- If you have a disability, you could request this as a reasonable accommodation.
- If you do not have a disability yourself, there is no requirement to allow work from home, but governments, including the state of Colorado, are strongly encouraging this practice.
- Is my employer following COVID guidance issued by OSHA?
- Check on your employer’s return to work policies and workplace safety policies.
- Do I need to interact with the public as part of my job?
- If yes, is my employer mandating mask use?
- Do I have a safe way to report violations of company policy (such as people not wearing masks)?
If you ask for a reasonable accommodation, remember:
- You need to ask –your employer cannot read minds.
- Make your request in writing and explain the connection between your disability and the requested change.
- For example, I have a neurological disability and weakened lung capacity and request to work at home. Working from home reduces my exposure to other people and reduces my risk of contracting COVID-19.
- Your employer may have a specific form they want you to use.
- Use their way unless you have a disability-related reason not to.
- There is no sense in arguing about that issue.
- Your employer will engage in an interactive process.
- It may be give-and-take on both sides.
- Be solution-focused.
- You still need to be able to do the essential functions of your job.
- For example: If you are a customer service representative and the system can’t forward calls to your home phone, then an essential function of your job requires you to be in the office.
If there is no way to accommodate you in your position consider:
- Asking if there are other positions for which you qualify.
- If so, ask for a transfer when there is an opening.
- Ask how much stored up sick or vacation time you have.
- Likely it will not be enough to get through the remainder of the pandemic, but you can use it while you figure out your other options.
- You MAY be eligible for unemployment.
- To maintain your eligibility for benefits, you must complete regular work search activities that help you return to work.
Reporting an Unsafe Work Environment
- If you fear your workplace is not safe and your management has not addressed concerns, you can look into the recently signed Whistleblower Protection Public Health Emergencies Act.
- This new law offers significant protections for workers (employees and independent contractors) from discrimination or retaliation by their employers.
- Workers are protected from discrimination or retaliation for raising concerns about workplace safety or health during a public health emergency.
- Workers are also protected when wearing their PPE at work.
- The full text of the law and more information is here: https://leg.colorado.gov/bills/HB20-1415.
If you feel you have faced discrimination, see what your employer’s internal grievance process is. If you are a member of a union, they should be able to help you. Otherwise, if you want to file a discrimination complaint you must submit an administrative complaint with a government agency.
You can go to the EEOC or the state Civil Rights Division if you believe you have faced disability discrimination.
EEOC Pandemic Guidance
Sate of Colorado Guidance
Guidance for Employers and General Public