COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) Update 4/19/2023

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is planning for the end of the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE) for COVID-19, declared under Section 319 of the Public Health Services Act, on May 11, 2023. Washington state law regarding high-risk employees under the Health Emergency Labor Standards Act (HELSA) (codified as RCW 49.17.062) remains in effect until the end of the federal state of emergency, at which time, the reporting requirements and protections for high-risk employees will end also.

The Health Emergency Labor Standards Act (HELSA) tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency is effective during a public health emergency declared by the president of the United States, or the governor of Washington. It protects high-risk employees from being discharged, permanently replaced, or discriminated against in the workplace for seeking accommodation or utilizing leave options, if no reasonable accommodation is available.

Under HELSA, high risk employees for COVID-19 were eligible to receive temporary accommodations during the federal and state public health emergency. Governor Inslee rescinded the state COVID-19 public health emergency effective October 31, 2022. The US Department of Health and Human Services issued a fact sheet dated February 9, 2023 reaffirming the intent to end the federal COVID-19 public health emergency at the end of the day on May 11, 2023. With the end of the federal and state COVID-19 public health emergency, the protections provided under HELSA will no longer be available. The L&I website has been updated and provides requirements that will continue into the future. This information can be reviewed by visiting “Requirements and Guidance for Preventing COVID-19” for additional information. Pierce College will continue to review available guidance from the WA State Department of Health and WA Labor and Industries for assessing workplace safety.

Although accommodations under HELSA are no longer available as of May 12, 2023, employees who continue to need an accommodation due to their medical condition may reengage in the reasonable accommodation interactive process.

If you have questions regarding your reasonable accommodation or the interactive process, you may contact the Human Resources Office directly or via email at

Workplace Accommodations

The Americans with Disabilities Act’s (ADA) overall purpose is to make American Society more accessible to people with disabilities. The ADA requires covered employers to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities (which has a very broad definition) and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all aspects of employment. Reasonable accommodation includes, for example, restructuring jobs, making work sites and workstations accessible, modifying schedules, providing services such as interpreters, and modifying equipment and policies.

Pierce College’s accommodation process is designed to explore reasonable accommodations for employees (including student employees) with medical conditions or disabilities. Accommodations are provided on an individual basis and created in collaboration with the requesting employee, Human Resources, and the employee’s supervisor if necessary.

Requesting Disability Accommodation

If you believe that a medical condition is affecting your ability to perform your job, you may want to begin the accommodation request process by discussing your needs with your supervisor or contacting Human Resources. You are not required to disclose the medical need for an accommodation to your immediate supervisor.

Forms for Accommodation Requests

During the accommodation request process, you may need to provide the following information:

  1. Accommodation Request
    What workplace barrier is preventing you, due to a disability or medical condition, from competing for a job, performing a job, or gaining equal access to a benefit of employment like an employee lunch room or employee parking. Try to specify the basis and nature of your request, the limitation(s) tied to your request, time constraints you may have and possible accommodation ideas.
    This highly recommended form can be used for that purpose: Accommodation Request Form
  2. In addition to the written accommodation request, you may be asked to submit a health-care provider statement. This documentation from your physician should establish your condition and describe how it affects job performance. Documentation should explain your diagnosed impairment, the functional limitations, and the need for a reasonable accommodation.
    This highly recommended form can be used for that purpose: Accommodation Medical Certification

Once you’ve submitted the above items to Human Resources, we’ll work together to determine if an accommodation can be made. For more information on the accommodations process, you can visit the following websites: