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"Changing Currents in Employment Law" is the D.C. Bar's annual three-hour event featuring legal updates and practice tips from the area's top employment attorneys — all for CLE credit. TELG's Scott Oswald serves as faculty chair and will moderate the event on October 26, 2021. Here he previews the panel on COVID-19's impact on reasonable accommodation with panelist Alison Davis of Littler Mendelson P.C.
This video interview by TELG managing principal R. Scott Oswald was published by The Employment Law Group, P.C. on August 12, 2021.
» “Changing Currents in Employment Law” will take place on October 26, 2021. Click here for more details and registration options.
(Transcribed and edited lightly by The Employment Law Group)
R. Scott Oswald: Welcome to our preview of this year’s “Changing Currents in Employment Law,” the D.C. Bar’s fall employment law CLE. I’m Scott Oswald. I am faculty chair of “Changing Currents in Employment Law,” and today, I’m joined by Alison Davis, a partner at Littler Mendelson’s D.C. office.
Alison Davis: Hey, Scott, good to see you.
Oswald: Good to see you. Hey, let’s talk about your panel. It’s entitled “Home Equity: How COVID-19 May Change the Law of Reasonable Accommodation.” Tell us a little about your speaking partner and maybe a few things that we’ll learn from this panel.
Davis: Well, we’re going to talk a little bit about the new world that we’re entering now. Prior to [the pandemic], we all pretty well were comfortable with how to deal with requests for telework. And you know, it didn’t happen frequently, but we gave it serious consideration, and it happened occasionally. And then suddenly, COVID-19 came along, and all of us were teleworking.
Oswald: And that all changed probably overnight.
Davis: Overnight, it changed, and now, we’re at a point where we’re all talking about returning to the office. We’re going to talk about what we need to think about going forward because our old mindset about telework and offering it as an accommodation has changed because of the pandemic.
Oswald: So, a lot of businesses are considering going to a hybrid model, Alison. What kind of advice are you giving to your clients right now who are thinking about that?
Davis: The one thing that has not changed is that telework is still being treated as an accommodation, and we still need to go through the interactive process. So, we shouldn’t just assume that everybody’s going to be still entitled to telework if they request it as a form of accommodation. We need to go through each situation on a case-by-case basis like we did before. That’s the one thing that has not changed.
Oswald: And so, when an employee comes in and says, “look, you know, I have a medical condition, or I have a firmly held religious belief,” what should HR be thinking about when that employee comes knocking?
Davis: They need to have a checklist in their mind of the questions that they need to ask when an employee comes in and says, “I can’t come into the office because I haven’t been vaccinated because I am immune-compromised.” Does that mean that they should be allowed to telework? Are there adjustments that can be made once everybody comes back that would protect that individual? We just need to have the right questions ready and shouldn’t have a knee-jerk reaction when the request comes in.
Oswald: So, I know one of the things you’re going to be talking about in your panel is kind of a changed workplace for the future. When you look a couple years down the road at what the workplace will look like, what do you think? What do we see?
Davis: Pre-COVID, my crystal ball worked really well. Now all I can say is it’s going to be a day-by-day [situation], and I really can’t predict where we’re going to be.
Oswald: So even more of a reason to come to “Changing Currents in Employment Law” to your panel. Alison, thank you. And we look forward to seeing each of you at this year’s “Changing Currents in Employment Law.” It’s Tuesday, October 26th at 6:00 pm. You can find us at dcbar.org.