The United States currently is experiencing an unprecedented public health emergency due to the COVID-19 virus. The economic fallout of this crisis has been sudden and brutal on US employers, with vast numbers of businesses ordered to close and nearly 1 million new unemployment claims filed in the past two weeks alone. In response, Congress has passed several new laws to take emergency action to address the impact on employers and employees. These laws and the speed at which they were put in place has left many overwhelmed and with many questions about what obligations they impose and how they will operate, if they can at all, through this crisis.
Although there is a certain feeling that in unprecedented times like this, employers should have more flexibility to take what could be potentially business-saving measures, no matter how drastic, it is important for employers to remember that, even during these trying times, the laws enforced by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)—all continue to apply. Indeed, the EEOC has made clear that employers’ obligations under these laws do not interfere with or prevent employers from following the guidelines and suggestions made by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or from complying with state and local public health authorities concerning steps employers should take regarding COVID-19. Continue Reading