Jennifer Barna, Senior Counsel in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management and Litigation practices, in the firm’s Newark office, was quoted in the Bloomberg Law Daily Labor Report, in “Early Covid-19 Disability Ruling Offers Blueprint for Lawsuits,” by Paige Smith.

Following is an excerpt:

One of the first courts to address whether employees with Covid-19 can claim disability bias after being fired provides some guidance for employers in an emerging litigation area, according to attorneys.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama said Wednesday that a nursing assistant in Alabama who was fired for following Covid-19 quarantine protocol after testing positive and presenting severe symptoms can pursue her disability bias lawsuit. The Montgomery, Ala.-based court is one of the first tribunals to weigh in on the issue.

Judge R. Austin Huffaker Jr. said the worker, Lucious Brown, adequately claimed that her symptoms could be an actual disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act or regarded as such by her employer, permitting her lawsuit to proceed. The opinion could be useful for employers continuing to navigate the central question of how to accommodate employees who contract the virus, and what the litigation landscape might resemble as challenges proceed in court. …

Employer Guidance

Attorneys said they’re continuing to advise clients to assess workers with Covid-19 requesting accommodations on an individual basis, even as they predict that litigation in this area will continue to arise. …

But Jennifer Stefanick Barna, senior counsel with Epstein Becker & Green P.C., disagreed, saying that employers have had to analyze medical conditions in the context of the ADA for years.

She described Covid-19 as a “newer medical condition within that existing framework.”

“It’s worth noting that the sheer scope of the Covid-19 pandemic and its impact on the workplace means it’s likely to mean an increase in litigation,” she said.

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