June 10, 2020
Vice President and Editor-in-Chief, CO—
With the COVID-19 vaccine being widely distributed in the United States and President Joe Biden setting the goal of getting the nation closer to normal by July 4, many organizations are seeking a return to work. Employers are starting to look at return strategies for how their companies can resume as close to a normal work setting as possible.
With many employees having worked remotely for well over a year, returning to an office may not be as simple as setting a date. The stress of the coronavirus pandemic has taken a mental toll on many Americans, and it's an employer’s responsibility to discuss those concerns with them if employees won’t come back to work.
Workers Who Are Anxious to Return to the Office Must Comply With the American With Disabilities Act
It's more than likely that some employees may have anxiety about returning to work with the coronavirus contained, yet not fully eradicated. If the employee has an anxiety disorder, they need to disclose this with the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect their rights.
“If the employee was previously diagnosed with some sort of an anxiety disorder and they are anxious about returning to work because of the coronavirus, then there's one course of action that the employer probably ought to take,” said Alan Thayer, founder of Innovative Law Group. “Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you would engage in the interactive process. You talk to the employee [about their condition].”
Employers Need to Address Concerns With Employees Who Won’t Come Back to Work
If an employee does not have a diagnosed anxiety disorder and refuses to come back to work, certain actions must be taken with the state.
“If they don't return back to work, you probably need to inform the state unemployment division that they were offered a job, but they didn't come back,” said Thayer. “We've heard state authorities say that, and we've even heard the Secretary of Treasury for the United States say the same thing.”
Thayer added that he recently spoke with an employer who had taken all the proper steps to help his team return to work, but one of his workers still refused. The employer then had to warn that worker that he would notify the unemployment office if they did not return to work.
“Start by talking to the employees, listening to them, trying to address their concerns,” Thayer said. “But at some point, you may need to part ways.”
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