Burn Bag: Sharing COVID-Positive Employees’ Information May be Prohibited Under ADA and EEO Regulations

Via Burn Bag:
“The Department has numerous required trainings for supervisors.  Yet, some continue to disregard them.  This behavior can create costly lessons for the Department, especially when it touches upon ADA and EEO regulations.
A supervisor recently emailed several individuals the full name of an employee – from a different team/office – who tested positive for COVID.  Our understanding is that the supervisor should have omitted the employee’s name per federal ADA/EEO regulations.  We do not know if the employee is aware of this supervisor’s actions, but based on previous experiences, this supervisor will retaliate if we inform the employee, EX, or S/OCR.
 Since we do not have an anonymous EEO reporting process, we ask the Department institute a mandatory training for all Bureau and posts for all supervisors, FSOs, FSSs, CSs, EFMs, contractors, detailees, and others to learn about federal EEO/ADA regulations for COVID-related matters.
 Returning to this supervisor, s/he has averaged approximately one EEO violation per month towards various individuals (with his/her leadership’s knowledge).  Yet the Department allows this supervisor to remain.  We’d like to remind the Department that it has the authority to proactively manage supervisors without waiting for numerous costly and time-consuming ADA/EEO complaints.  Employees (on their personal time) are also allowed to inform their Senators and Congressmen of the Department’s compliance with ADA/EEO regulations.”

Addendum:

“We understand that S/OCR will soon be drafting the 2020 MD-715, an annual status report of the Department’s EEO/ADA programs, which should include COVID-related actions.  We are curious to learn how it may acknowledge that 1) supervisor(s) may be in ongoing non-compliance with EEO/ADA regulations, 2) the Department appears to maintain supervisors in their same roles and 3) this continued non-compliance directly hurts retention and advancement of employees with disabilities.”

 

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OPM: Protect Employee Privacy Interests During COVID-19

Via OPM:

Under what circumstances should an agency communicate to its employees that there is a confirmed case among one or more of its employees (without identifying the person/specific office)?

The infected employee’s privacy should be protected to the greatest extent possible; therefore, his or her identity should not be disclosed. In an outbreak of quarantinable communicable disease or COVID-19, management should share only that information determined to be necessary to protect the health of the employees in the workplace but maintain confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Supervisors should consult with their agency general counsel to determine what information is releasable. Employees exposed to a co-worker with confirmed COVID-19 should refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/assess-manage-risk.html.
If social distancing, information sharing, or other precautions to assist employees in recognizing symptoms or reducing the spread of the illness can be taken without disclosing information related to a specific employee, that is the preferred approach. Managers should work with their workplace safety contacts and local health officials to stay apprised of information regarding transmission of the illness and precautions that should be taken to reduce the spread of influenza or any other contagious disease in the workplace. Managers should treat this as they would any other illness in the workplace and continue to protect employee privacy interests while providing sufficient information to all employees related to protecting themselves against the spread of illness.
Source: (PDF)

@StateDept Did Not Comply With Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) Requirements

 

Via FSGB: FSGB Case No. 2018-003
HELD – The Board granted grievant’s appeal, finding that the U.S. Department of State (Department) did not comply with the requirements of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) when it failed to provide grievant with a reasonable accommodation for her disability. The Board directed, among other things, that the parties engage in the interactive process required under the ADA to determine a reasonable accommodation.
SUMMARY – Due to a lengthy illness with cancer grievant, while serving on a limited noncareer appointment in the consular skill code, did not receive an Employee Evaluation Report (EER) from an overseas posting. A Commissioning and Tenure Board (CTB) deferred a decision on tenure until she was able to be appraised on her performance at an overseas posting. The Department assigned grievant to an overseas posting to enable her to receive such an EER. However, as a consequence of her chemotherapy, grievant experienced neuropathy in her hands, and she developed an allergy to nickel. Accordingly, she requested that she be permanently reassigned assigned to the economic skill code, which she said would require handling a smaller volume of materials. The Department denied that accommodation request but did provide her with special office equipment that it said would address her nickel allergy. Grievant continued to experience neuropathy during her overseas assignment and was medically curtailed from post without receiving an EER. As a result, her next CTB recommended that she not receive tenure, and the Department terminated her appointment. The Board held that the Department failed to meet the requirement under the ADA and Department regulations to engage with an employee with a qualifying disability, such as grievant, in an “interactive process” to determine a reasonable accommodation. Although grievant’s request to be permanently reassigned to another skill code would be a “last resort” under Department regulations, that did not relieve the Department of the duty to consider other options such as assigning grievant to positions in the consular skill code that did not involve processing large numbers of passport and visa applications. Further, the Department had an ongoing duty to find a reasonable accommodation when it became clear that the accommodation it did provide was not effective. Accordingly, the Board directed that when grievant was cleared medically to serve in an overseas posting, the parties engage in the interactive process to identify an effective accommodation for grievant’s disability.