Accommodations for Vulnerable Individuals

The university is aware that some members of our community face a greater risk from COVID-19 than others and encourages faculty, staff, and students who have concerns about their individual circumstances to consider consulting with the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) or Human Resources (HR) about the process for seeking a reasonable accommodation or adjustment.

Workplace Accommodations

If you fall within the CDC’s definition of a “vulnerable person” or if you have a documented disability, you may request a workplace accommodation that will allow you to return safely to your work environment or make other appropriate arrangements.

The CDC’s definition of a “vulnerable person” for COVID-19 has changed over time based on evolving public health and regulatory guidance. Individuals who are at increased risk for severe illness due to COVID-19 include the following:

  • Older adults, particularly those ages 65 and older;
  • People of all ages with underlying medical conditions, particularly if not well controlled, including those:
    • with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma;
    • who have heart conditions;
    • who have cancer;
    • who are immunocompromised (including blood, bone marrow or organ transplantation, immune deficiencies, poorly controlled HIV or AIDS, and prolonged use of corticosteroids and other immune weakening medications);
    • with obesity (body mass index between 30 and 39) or severe obesity (body mass index of 40 or higher);
    • with Type 2 diabetes;
    • with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease);
    • who are pregnant;
    • who smoke;
    • who have sickle cell disease;
    • with chronic kidney disease; and
    • with liver disease.

If you wish to seek a workplace accommodation, you should contact the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE). The OIE will facilitate the review and will follow the usual disability accommodations process, with confidential information being held by OIE only. The OIE will work with the department and Central/Divisional HR to ensure equity across the university. Note that additional documentation from the affiliate’s medical record may be required.

More information for faculty, staff, and postdoctoral fellows on the accommodations process may be found on the OIE website or accessibility.jhu.edu, or by phone (410-516-8075) or email (oie@jhu.edu  or OIEdisability@jhu.edu).

Students should contact the Student Disability Services Coordinator at their respective school to begin the process. In addition, as always, anyone with a documented disability or who needs a religious accommodation, pregnancy or nursing parent adjustment may pursue accommodations as well.

Workplace Adjustments

If you do not fall within the CDC’s definition of a “vulnerable person,” but have other concerns about returning to campus due to your individual circumstances such as household members who may be at higher risk, the need to care for a household or family member, or a generalized fear, you can still request a workplace adjustment.  

To do so, you should contact your department chair/head (if you are a faculty member or post-doc), your manager (if you are a staff member), or central or divisional HR. You may raise your concern with whichever of these people you are most comfortable.

Central HR’s Office of Employee and Labor Relations, in collaboration with divisional HR, will facilitate the review. This process requires the disclosure of pertinent personal information to HR. HR will work with the department to arrive at an adjustment, when appropriate and feasible. If an adjustment isn’t possible or if the employee declines the adjustment, the university’s expectation is that the employee will return to work. If the employee refuses to meet their employment obligations, they may be subject to further disciplinary actions.

Confidentiality Expectations

Employees who express concerns regarding their own health condition do not need to disclose the details of the health condition to their supervisor or co-workers. They may need to disclose this information to OIE, however, if they are seeking an accommodation. In addition, department chairs/heads or managers should not seek details when an employee indicates the potential need for an accommodation. OIE will follow HIPAA and other confidentiality guidelines related to private health information when reviewing requests for accommodation.

Employees who express concerns about returning to campus due to a circumstance other than their individual health (e.g. household members who may be at higher risk, need to care for household or family member, etc.) may be asked to disclose some details of the reasons for their concern to HR as part of the adjustment review process. HR engages its work in a way that attempts to maintain confidentiality to the greatest extent possible, however these circumstances do not encompass the same protections of private health information. 

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