The construction site, like many shared workspaces, can become a breeding ground for sickness and disease if just one worker exposes others to a contagious virus. Dealing with sick workers can be challenging. The laws for dealing with a sick worker vary depending on the severity of the worker’s condition, as well as the condition itself. Since many serious conditions that result in substantial physical or mental impairments are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), contractors must be careful when handling a sick worker in the workplace. Additionally, workers who call in sick may have protections under the ADA.
In this two-part series, the construction lawyers in Mobile, AL, at Cotney Construction Law will cover some of the most important things contractors should know about ADA compliance and dealing with sick workers.
What is Covered by the ADA
The ADA is a federal law prohibiting discrimination against proficient individuals on the grounds of disabilities. ADA recognizes any disabilities that impair a person’s ability to engage in a “major life activity,” possess a history of significant impairment, or have been recognized as suffering from a specific disability as noted in 42 U.S.C. §12102(2); 29 C.F.R. §1630.2(g). In other words, contractors need to be cognizant of any employees with debilitating conditions covered by the ADA, since working with these employees requires careful understanding of both the rights of the contractor and the disabled employee.
ADA-covered disabilities include a wide array of medical conditions like:
- Intellectual disabilities
- Missing limbs (partial or complete)
- Limited mobility (use of a wheelchair)
- Cerebral palsy
- HIV infection
- Multiple sclerosis
- Muscular dystrophy
- Major depressive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
It’s important to note that the ADA does not provide coverage for employees suffering from minor illnesses like the common cold, allergies, a broken bone, or the flu.
What is Not Covered by the ADA
If you have a worker who “can’t work” due to an ailment that is not related to those mentioned in the previous section, it is not covered by the ADA and therefore not protected by the law. If a worker is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or suffers from a substance abuse problem, they are not protected and the contractor may take action accordingly. As an employer, if you are unsure of whether or not an employee is covered by the ADA, you should consult an attorney to make certain you are providing the necessary accommodations for these workers as indicated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.