All workers have the right to work free from harassment and discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics. There are three types of employment discrimination that are particularly relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic: discrimination based on disability, age discrimination, and race and national origin discrimination.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers of 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees with actual or perceived qualifying disabilities. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued updated guidance addressing how COVID-19 affects ADA requirements.
Consistent with this guidance, employers can perform certain screening measures during the pandemic. For example, employers may ask returning travelers about their potential exposure to COVID-19, require infection-control practices, require use of personal protective equipment, and take employee temperatures.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) was intended to protect older workers from age discrimination. While those over 65 are not more likely to contract COVID-19, the consequences of contraction can be much more severe for older workers. As a result, many employers may take actions that are intentionally or unintentionally discriminatory against older workers. The EEOC guidance on age discrimination can be viewed here.
Race and National Origin Discrimination
COVID-related discrimination towards Chinese and individuals of Asian descent has increased in recent months. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex and national origin.” EEOC guidance on national origin discrimination can be found here. Guidance on race discrimination can be viewed here.
Some EEOC offices, including Raleigh’s EEOC office, are closed for walk-ins during the COVID-19 pandemic. All current appointments scheduled are being conducted by phone. Those wishing to file charges may start the intake process online, or call the Raleigh office at 1-800-669-4000.
If you believe that your rights have been violated, call our firm toll free at 1-800-458-2541 or contact us online today.