The information you obtain on this website is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult with an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation.
The elderly and immunocompromised are more at risk to COVID-19. Therefore, employers may be tempted to treat employees who are either elderly or have pre-existing conditions differently. Maybe a grocery store has a temptation to tell elderly cashiers not to come to work.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has made clear that anti-discrimination laws continue in full force and effect during this time. Discrimination against the elderly and those with preexisting conditions is prohibited.
An employer is not allowed to exclude employees from work because they’re elderly even if that makes them more susceptible to the disease. Additionally, an employer cannot consider an employee's age when selecting employees to layoff or furlough. Older workers have to be treated the same as younger workers.
Furthermore, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who have medical conditions such as chronic lung disease and serious heart conditions. This may mean that employers may be obligated to allow employees to work from home, if possible. However, it is up to the employee to request the reasonable accommodation. The employer may not force an employee with a medical condition to work from home while other employees continue to work normally. The employer cannot force the employee to take a reasonable accommodation.
A good article on this subject was written by the National Law Review. You could read it here.
The EEOC posted a Q&A about the subject here.
The EEOC also hosted a webinar which may be viewed here.
April 19, 2020