I don’t know about you, but the amount of flexibility required to survive business operations during this pandemic has me feeling like I should be a master yogi, or one of those contortionists in Cirque Du Soleil. Flexibility as an employer is good practice in normal circumstances, but in our current environment, it may be more important than ever.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA offers protection from workplace discrimination based on disability, while the Rehabilitation Act adds the requirement for a reasonable accommodation. If you’re reading this blog, I’ll bet you already knew that. What you may not have pondered is how these EEO laws apply to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Covid-19 has brought about new concerns, specific to underlying health conditions that may create a heightened risk of contracting the virus for some employees. The fear and uncertainty of the pandemic exacerbates mental health conditions for others. It’s important to treat accommodation requests related to Covid-19 as seriously as you would with any other request unrelated to the virus. Essential and non-essential workers alike are entitled to reasonable accommodations for qualifying conditions. Many businesses are finding the obvious solution to be a work from home set-up. Since its best practice to minimize in-person interactions while the virus is uncontrolled, it’s kind of a win/win if you can pull it off. However, like most HR laws, policies, and procedures, there are always two parts, the business operations and process part, and the employee relations, or employee management part. The business part is almost always the easier of the two to manage.
The pandemic is challenging employers in all kinds of ways, including with nuances in discrimination. As well, the virus seems to have no immunity to an environment of politics that has reached a fever pitch status. Add that to the fact that teams are operating more separately than ever, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a whole bunch of new challenges to manage.
Recent reports explain possibilities of coronavirus-related disability discrimination to include:
Refusing reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities
Treating employees as though they pose a greater risk of contacting and spreading COVID-19 due to the perceived disability
Treating applicants with perceived disability or illness differently than applicants who are perceived to be healthy during hiring and screening processes
As well, research shows an increase in instances of racial discrimination in the work environment; specifically against Asian American and African-American workers because of the way the virus has shaped how individuals perceive one another.
I cannot stress enough, the importance that leaders take every opportunity to present clear and consistent messaging to teams. Good communication is the best preventive measure to diffuse situations before they arise. Approaching teams in a way that is designed to educate and inform them about ways they can inadvertently negatively impact others in the workplace, and taking the opportunity to remind teams of your commitment to operating in a flexible and compassionate manner, will help alleviate at least some anxiety they may be experiencing. This is your opportunity to gift your team with the amazing leader they deserve. It may not be easy, but it IS possible.
If you’re struggling to manage employee perceptions and keep teams from feeling disjointed, we can help. In fact, there’s never been a better time to seize the opportunity to create efficient, productive, and cohesive teams. Investing time and money with the experts now, will likely yield a huge return on investment in the future. If you’re ready to take your team to the next level, reach out to us via our Techpeopleresources.com contact page, by phone, or through any of our social media platforms which can be found on our website.
YOUR EMPLOYEES WILL THANK YOU!