On July 26, 2021, the Biden administration announced that people suffering from long-term side effects of COVID-19, also known as “Long COVID,” may be protected under federal anti-discrimination laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Long COVID is a condition in which people experience long-term symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty thinking, or chronic pain after contracting COVID-19. Under certain circumstances, this condition may be considered a protected disability under the ADA.
Guidance from the Department of Justice explained that an individualized determination is necessary to determine whether Long COVID qualifies as a protected disability. Individualized evaluations typically involve a visit to a medical professional to assess the effect of Long COVID symptoms. During an evaluation a medical professional determines whether the symptoms present a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits one or more important, daily activities. The Department of Justice acknowledges that in cases where a medical professional finds that the long term side effects—for example, fatigue or difficulty breathing—significantly impairs an individual’s ability to complete daily activities, Long COVID can qualify as a protected disability.
The White House also stressed that guidance issued early last month by the Department of Labor recommends that employers should accommodate, within reason, those who have a disability due to Long COVID. This means that, generally, employers must reasonably accommodate employees with a qualifying Long COVID disability. This can take the form of providing protective equipment, adjusting working conditions, or modifying work tasks.
However, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which oversees federal anti-discrimination laws like the ADA, has stated that an employer does not need to accommodate a protected employee when the accommodations would pose an undue hardship for the employer. Importantly, the ADA prohibits an employer from terminating or committing an adverse employment action against an employee suffering from Long COVID.
For more information on Long COVID as a disability in the workplace, contact El Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM) from Mexico at (800) 590-1773 or from the United States at: 1 (855) 234-9699. To speak to someone in Mixteco call: 953-554-0517. Our services are completely free and confidential.
Imágen: Flickr/guiastercerplaneta 2011/Vía Flickr.com