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Can teachers refuse to go to work this fall due to health concerns connected to COVID-19?

Educators around the state are applying to their districts to ‘teach remotely’ out of fear for their health.

Allen Schoikhetbrod, a partner at Tully Rinckey PLLC specializing in employment law, tells CNYCentral that a teacher has to have an underlying medical condition. The catch is that it must qualify for reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the New York State Human Rights Law.

The CDC and U.S. Department of Education are using two categories of medical conditions.


Those at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, such as older workers, those with type 2 diabetes, and heart conditions fall into one category. And those at higher risk of complications should they contract COVID-19 such as asthma, high blood pressure and those who smoke fall into another.

At the end of the day, Schoikhetbrod says it’s up to the employer to decide what reasonable accommodation is provided.

“If you have the majority of teachers wanting to work from home, the employer may find that to not be a reasonable accommodation because it’s an undue hardship,” said Schoikhetbrod. “Whether it’s on their budget or on the number of students that want to be in the classroom.”

 

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