Although most people who contract COVID-19 get better within weeks, some people continue to experience symptoms that can last months after first being infected, or may have new or recurring symptoms at a later time. We are going to take a look at employer’s responsibility vis-à-vis Long COVID
What is Long COVID?
Long COVID can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if the initial illness was mild. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people with Long COVID have a range of new or ongoing symptoms that can last weeks or months after they are infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and that can worsen with physical or mental activity.
- Tiredness or fatigue
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes called “brain fog”)
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Dizziness on standing
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (known as heart palpitations)
- Chest pain
- Joint or muscle pain
- Depression or anxiety
- Loss of taste or smell
People with this condition are sometimes called “long-haulers.” Employees may have difficulty working the same way they did before they contracted COVID-19.
When Is Long COVID Covered by the ADA?
In light of the rise of long COVID as a persistent and significant health issue, the Office for Civil Rights of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice have joined together to provide guidance in this area.
In short, a person with Long COVID has a disability if the person’s symptoms are a “physical or mental” impairment that “substantially limits” one or more major life activities
Regarding the specific statutes under which Long COVID can be considered a disability, the DHS and other governing boards mention:
- Titles II (state and local government) and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
- Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
Each of these federal laws protects people with disabilities from discrimination.
What is the Employer’s Responsibility with Regards To Accommodating Long Covid?
First, an individualized assessment is necessary to determine whether a person’s Long COVID condition or any of its symptoms substantially limits a major life activity.
People whose long COVID qualifies as a disability are entitled to the same protections from discrimination as any other person with a disability under the ADA. Put simply, they are entitled to full and equal opportunities to participate in and enjoy all aspects of civic and commercial life.
For example, this may mean that businesses will need to make changes to the way that the person performs their duties to accommodate Long COVID-related limitations. For people whose long COVID qualifies as a disability, these changes, or “reasonable modifications,” are similar to those provided to employees with other disabilities.
Contact the ADA Experts at Strategic Consulting
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