As we prepare for the 2020-2021 school year and the potential for full re-entry into our classrooms, we recognize that many of you may have concerns regarding your ability to return to school in person. For a variety of reasons, you may be wondering whether you qualify for benefits under the Families First Act and/or whether you qualify for ADA accommodations, which may enable you to work remotely from home. As a result, you may need to know how to request accommodations from the district.
Seacoast Education Association and NEANH are here to support you and provide assistance in navigating these waters. It’s important for you to have the necessary tools and information as they become available. We’ll be with you every step of the way: providing materials, answering questions, and accompanying you in your meetings with the district.
In addition, SEA has been working hard on two Memorandums of Agreement to address a wide range of changes for the 2020-21 school year beginning with our top priority: your health and safety.
1. Families First Coronavirus Response Act Benefits:
FFCRA Paid Leave Rights (link)
The US Department of Labor has developed an online flow chart to help you determine if you qualify for benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. These benefits include emergency paid sick leave and/or paid leave to care for children if school or daycare is closed.
2. Medical Accommodations per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):
If you have health conditions that increase your risk if exposed to COVID-19 (e.g. respiratory conditions, immune deficiencies, heart conditions, etc.) then you are considered “high risk.” In the event that employees are asked to return to work in school buildings, you have protections available under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that require your employer to provide accommodations. SEA has already made the district aware of this process and your superintendents are already preparing for the accommodations that may be requested by “high risk” employees. This request will trigger an “interactive process” in which SEA representatives will accompany you through meetings with the district to discuss potential options and determine what accommodations are reasonable to implement.
Conditions likely to qualify for ADA Accommodations include: Chronic lung disease, asthma, serious heart conditions, immune system compromising conditions, diabetes, hypertension, kidney or liver disease. Conditions that may qualify include certain mental health conditions (anxiety disorder, OCD, PTSD), pregnancy, or being 65 or older (age is not in itself a disability, but it does not hurt to make a request if you are 65 but have no underlying health condition, since it puts the district on notice that you are particularly at risk)
Possible ADA Accommodations include: Working remotely, performing duties that require less interaction with other people, additional protective equipment, etc. Your employer is only required to make a reasonable accommodation and is not required to take actions that would impose an undue hardship on the employer or other employees. However, you will not know what is possible unless you make a request.
SEA Members caring for high risk individuals likely do not have ADA rights, however such rights can be bargained and members may have leave rights under the Families First Coronavirus Recovery Act or the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Requesting ADA Accommodations for Returning to School During the COVID-19 Pandemic:
- Copy and paste the italicized text below into an email to your superintendent.
- Cc your SEA president, your SEA building representative and your principal or immediate supervisor.
- Read and edit the text as appropriate before sending.
I am writing to request reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
I understand that you may require employees to return to work in schools before the COVID-19 virus has been controlled. I have a health condition that places me at heightened risk for serious complications from COVID-19. Please let me know if you would like me to provide medical documentation.
My suggestions for accommodations are the following:
I would like to hear the District’s ideas about possible accommodations also.
Please respond to my message in a reasonable amount of time so we can decide on reasonable accommodations before the school year begins. Please include my union representative (copied on this email) in discussions and meeting invitations related to this request.
We hope you find this information helpful in these difficult times and we will provide more as it becomes available. Please feel free to reach out to your SEA representatives or leadership at any time if we can be of further assistance in this process.