Susan Gross Sholinsky Quoted in “Responding to Employees’ Spouses’ Coronavirus Concerns”


Susan Gross Sholinsky, Member of the Firm in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in SHRM, in “Responding to Employees’ Spouses’ Coronavirus Concerns,” by Allen Smith.

Following is an excerpt:

Many spouses of workers worry when their loved ones report to worksites during the pandemic, and some employees are afraid to work onsite because they have family members who are at high risk. Employers sometimes have legal obligations to respond to such concerns, and sometimes they don’t. Some employers are accommodating workers with at-risk spouses whether they are obliged to or not.

While employers must accommodate at-risk employees with disabilities, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has confirmed that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not require employers to accommodate an employee’s family member with a disability.

“Although the ADA prohibits discrimination based on association with an individual with a disability, that protection is limited to disparate treatment or harassment,” the EEOC has said in its guidance on COVID-19 and the ADA. …

Voluntary Measures

But an employer can go beyond what the ADA requires. The employer may choose to let the employee continue working from home, if it wants to accommodate a worker whose family member is at a particularly high risk should the family member be infected with COVID-19. …

If an employee expresses concern about going to work because he or she has a family member at high risk who does not live with him or her but who he or she often visits, accommodations in such instances could open a Pandora’s box. There might be discrimination claims against the employer “due to treating one employee differently from another when it accommodates an attenuated request for one employee, but not for another,” cautioned Susan Gross Sholinsky, an attorney with Epstein Becker Green in New York City.