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Worker Anti-Discrimination Protections Related to COVID-19

3/20/2020 11:23:20 AM

The Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) protects employees from discrimination on the basis of disability, race, national origin, age, and other protected classes. Individuals with disabilities have the right to request “reasonable accommodations” from employers who are subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act and/or the MHRA. If you have a disability that affects your risk for contracting COVID-19 or being harmed if you do contract this virus, you should request a reasonable accommodation from your employer.

For example, employees with disabilities that put them at high-risk for complications related to COVID-19 may request telework or paid/sick/unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation to reduce their chances of infection during a pandemic.

Employers may ask employees if they are experiencing influenza-like symptoms, such as fever or chills, and a cough or sore throat. Employers must maintain all information about employee illness as a confidential medical record in compliance with state and federal law.

During a pandemic, employers may not ask employees who do not have known or apparent influenza symptoms whether they have a medical condition that the CDC says could make them vulnerable to influenza complications. Under no circumstances may an employer make decisions based on stereotypes or bias.

If employees voluntarily disclose to their employer that they have a medical condition or a disability that places them at higher risk of COVID-19 complications, the employer must keep this information confidential.

Employers may not assume that employees with known medical conditions or disabilities are at heightened risk of complications from COVID-19. For more information about pandemic preparedness in the workplace and relevant legal requirement for employers, visit the EEOC's website here

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is the state’s civil rights enforcement agency and enforces the MHRA. If you believe you have been discriminated against, contact the Department at 651-539-1133, 1-800-657-3704, via email at, or report discrimination online here.

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