Articles Posted in Self Medical Leave

On March 11, 2021, President Biden Signed the American Rescue Plan Act (“ARPA”) into law. The ARPA extends the unemployment benefits that were available under the March 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) and the December 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act, (both of which were set to expire after March 14, 2021) through September 6, 2021. 

To reap the benefits of the ARPA, you must meet your state’s eligibility requirements. In the state of Texas, if COVID-19 is the only reason you cannot work, you are considered able to work according to the Texas Workforce Commission (“TWC”). Hence, in order to remain eligible for benefits, you must be able and available to work and search for work as instructed by the TWC. Unless you are exempt, the number of work search activities you must complete and report each week is determined by your county of residence. 

However, according to the TWC, each benefits case is evaluated on an individual basis. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the TWC has compiled a list of reasons benefits would be granted even if you refuse suitable work. Among those reasons are if you are 65 years or older, and/or have a medical condition, like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or a weakened immune system, or at a higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19, and/or if someone in your household is at high risk for contracting COVID-19. 

austin-campbellIn recent decades, employers have become increasingly interested in their employees’ private lives. One question that comes up often is the extent to which employers can look into and use their employees’ medical information. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made these sorts of inquiries more common, so it is important that you as an employee understand your legal rights and responsibilities.

For starters, the default rule is that your employer cannot ask you about medical conditions or demand medical documentation for just any reason. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (and specifically, 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)) your employer can ask about medical conditions (including disabilities) or ask you to undergo a medical exam only if doing so is “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” What does that mean? Generally, your employer must reasonably believe that you have a health condition that impairs your ability to do your job or that poses a direct threat of harm to others. It is entitled only to information on those things. However, this does mean that you employer can ask for a doctor’s note for things like going out on and returning from sick leave.

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