WCI, Inc
Oct. 18, 2021

Must an employer accommodate employees who request modified protective gear?

Issue: Your company’s worksite has reopened following a shutdown due to COVID-19. Employees who return to work at the facility are required to wear personal protective gear and engage in infection control practices. A few employees have contacted you and asked for accommodations due to a need for modified protective gear. Do you have to grant those requests?

Answer: An employer may require employees to wear protective gear (e.g., masks and gloves) and observe infection control practices (e.g., regular hand washing and social distancing protocols).

However, where an employee with a disability needs a related reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (e.g., non-latex gloves, modified face masks for interpreters or others who communicate with an employee who uses lip reading, or gowns designed for individuals who use wheelchairs), or a religious accommodation under Title VII (e.g., modified equipment due to religious garb), the employer should discuss the request with the employee and provide the modification or an alternative if feasible and not an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business under the ADA or Title VII.

Source: EEOC Technical Assistance Questions and Answers: What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws, Q&A G2, https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws; reported in Employment Practices Guide, New Developments ¶5517.

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