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Erica Rocush Speaks with SHRM About How Disability Laws Apply to COVID-19-Related Illnesses

Los Angeles, Calif. (December 15, 2020) - Los Angeles and Phoenix Partner Erica Rocush shared her insights with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) for an article titled “COVID-19 and Disability Laws: What California Employers Should Know.” The article discusses how existing federal and state disability laws apply to illnesses arising from COVID-19.

As the article describes, employers are continuing to face the issue of “whether an employee’s COVID-19-related illness qualifies as a disability under federal or state law and requires the employer to explore reasonable accommodations.” The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) include slightly different definitions of “disability,” with the FEHA offering a broader definition of the term.

Ms. Rocush told SHRM that when an employee seeks an accommodation for a COVID-19-related illness, the employer should request medical certification from the employee’s healthcare provider. She further recommended that if an employee has a prolonged case and has produced a doctor’s note describing the need for an accommodation, then the employer should look into whether it can accommodate the employee.

As the article explains, employers must also consider the requirements set forth in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which requires covered employers to provide employees with leave for certain COVID-19-related reasons. According to Ms. Rocush, if an employee requests FFCRA leave, the employer should pay attention to the law’s specific requirements and limitations regarding the type of support for the leave they may require the employee to produce.

Ms. Rocush, who practices in both California and Arizona, serves as co-chair of Lewis Brisbois’ Employment Advice & Counseling Practice. Focusing upon management-side employment law litigation and counseling, she represents a diverse array of clients and has extensive experience handling federal and state cases involving discrimination, retaliation, failure to accommodate, wage and hour, and breach of contract claims. She is also a member of Lewis Brisbois' COVID-19 Labor & Employment Team, which is actively monitoring employment law developments at the federal, state, and local levels related to COVID-19 and providing counsel to clients on their obligations and responsibilities.

You can read the full SHRM article here.


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