By Neli Kharbedia | Tressler LLP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee Member
I remember convincing myself that the new virus that everyone was talking about “wasn’t that bad” while in my office on March 12, 2020...I was very wrong! As we now know, COVID-19 is serious and can cause severe symptoms and death. Some people, I included, have been left with long-term conditions after recovering from the virus. The effect of the COVID-19 has been even more serious for people with disabilities. Individuals with certain disabilities already deal with health issues that may put them at increased risk of severe consequences from COVID-19.
Among the many repercussions on our society, the pandemic reshaped the workplace as well. The virus itself naturally reduced the supply of labor as it has tragically claimed more than one million Americans’ lives as of July 2022. Available workforce was further reduced in 2021, when more than 47 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This has come to be called the “Great Resignation.” Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the labor shortages are apparent in every industry, from cancelled flights to closed businesses.
COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on our everyday lives, making many feel as if it was the end of the world as we knew it. John F. Kennedy said that “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.” We had no choice but to adapt to it and accept this “new normal.”
The pandemic forced companies to modify their operations. In some industries, companies offered remote work for the first time due to stay-at-home orders and new health and safety requirements. Employees had to quickly adjust to a new way of life, and individuals with health issues and/or disabilities showed that they can perform their duties at the same level as they were in the office. However, now that offices are re-opening for in-office work and modifying remote work policies, many employees with disabilities who may want the option to continue working remotely have been confronted with difficult decisions, including the loss of employment.
As the pandemic nears its three-year anniversary, COVID-19 has revealed that working remotely is possible and can continue to be effective in workplaces that previously did not offer it as an option. I believe that this change in the workplace should encourage employers in many industries to evaluate and consider providing more opportunities to home-based workers, especially those with disabilities, going forward. Hopefully, companies will continue to discover the importance of offering and expanding remote work options, making the workplace more inclusive for people with disabilities.
About the Author
Neli Kharbedia is an associate attorney in the General Defense Litigation Practice Group at Tressler LLP. Neli is an active member of our national Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. She practices in our New Jersey and New York offices and is licensed in both states. Neli focuses her practice on litigating defense matters and insurance coverage disputes including various business lines. Neli also has experience handling the defense of commercial and construction litigation. She received her B.A. from Hofstra University in Business Administration and her J.D. from Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. Neli can be reached at email@example.com or by phone at 973-368-6211.
About Tressler LLP
Headquartered in Chicago, with eight offices located in five states, Tressler LLP is a national law firm comprised primarily of attorneys who devote their practice to the representation of the insurance industry in coverage analysis and resolution, litigation, underwriting consultation, product development, claims management and reinsurance.
In addition, Tressler has one of the most experienced and multi-faceted government law practices in Illinois, and has attorneys who represent clients in commercial litigation, defense litigation, corporate transactions, employment law and litigation, intellectual property and condominium and common interest community association law.