“My employer wants me to return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. I worry about my health because I have a disability. What are my rights?”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, you may find it hard to go back to work because of your disability. If you have a disability like anxiety disorder, you may have a harder time with stress. Or you may have a disability or health issue that puts you at risk for getting really sick if you get COVID-19. Follow these steps to stay safe at work.

Step 1: Request a reasonable accommodation.

If COVID-19 has caused an issue because of your disability, you can ask for a reasonable accommodation. A reasonable accommodation is a change to the rules, which you need for your disability.

These are some things you might want to ask for:

  • Creating one-way hallways
  • Using barriers to make sure you stay far enough apart from others
  • Allowing you to work from home
  • Temporarily giving you a different job
  • Changing your work schedule
  • Cleaning more often, using masks at work and checking people for sickness

Put your request in writing (email is fine) and send it to a manager, supervisor, or HR. You might have to get a letter from your doctor that says what you need for your disability.

Step 2: Work with your boss to get what you need.

Your boss can accept or reject your request. If they say no to your request, ask why. They should work with you to find another accommodation to meet your needs.

Step 3: Learn what your boss can and cannot ask you.

You can keep your medical information private. Your employer can’t ask if you have a health condition that will make you extremely sick with COVID-19. But they can ask you basic information about your disability if they don’t know what your disability is. This helps them know if you need the accommodation.

Step 4: Stay safe in the workplace.

You have a legal right to a safe and healthy workplace. If you need extra protections for your disability, you can ask for those as an accommodation. You can file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) if you think your workplace is unsafe. You can do so by visiting the NC Department of Labor website or calling 1-800-NC-LABOR.

Step 5: Call DRNC if you need more help.

If you need help with any of these steps, contact DRNC. We can help you understand your rights. We can also help you work with your boss to get what you need to stay safe.

For more information, see the full information packet here.

Sample letters to request a reasonable accommodation or paid leave