***Last updated June 30, 2020***
June 3, 2020 (New York, NY) — Given questions around equality of opportunity in the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and increased requirements around masks and other hygiene and social distancing measures, the Sikh Coalition has summarized two important documents to inform employees of their rights regarding employment in the context of the pandemic.
In 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a guidance document around pandemic preparedness in the workplace in response to the H1N1 outbreak; much of this content is still relevant today, and an updated version was released this year. Additionally, the EEOC has followed-up this resource with a collection of frequently asked questions specifically pertaining to a range of issues related to the pandemic. Critical conclusions from both documents have been summarized by the Sikh Coalition, in English here and Punjabi here.
“Above all else, it is essential to remember that the anti-discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC remain in effect during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Cindy Nesbit, Sikh Coalition Senior Staff Attorney. “Obviously, all of us–including employers–are adjusting to life in the time of COVID-19, but that does not mean that anyone should suffer an infringement of their religious, medical, or other civil rights in the workplace.”
The summary document, which can be found in English here and Punjabi here, includes an outline of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provisions enforced by the EEOC, including how employers may handle COVID-19 symptoms of a prospective or current employee; how Centers for Disease Control, state, and local guidelines may impact protections; what constitutes “reasonable accommodations” employers must provide; what sorts of healthcare guidelines employers might impose upon employees; and a reminder of all employers’ perpetual responsibility to combat harassment of employees based on perceived or actual protected characteristics.
The Sikh Coalition has created and collected several relevant COVID-19 resources on our website, ranging from guidance for healthcare professionals seeking the appropriate personal protective equipment to unemployment benefits across each of the 50 U.S. states. Our legal team is also available to provide free legal assistance if you or someone you know should face either workplace discrimination or bias, bigotry, or harassment–whether or not it is related to the pandemic.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges you to practice your faith fearlessly.