Is Long COVID a Disability Under the ADA?
And if So, What Are Your Rights in the Workplace?
In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the common wisdom was that most people with COVID-19 recovered within a couple weeks.
However, since the beginning, data has indicated that many COVID-19 patients experience symptoms of varying severity that can last months or even longer. As COVID-19 is a new disease, it is unclear exactly how long these symptoms can be expected to continue.
When COVID-19 symptoms linger, it’s known as “long COVID.” And it can be debilitating. Recently, the ADA released guidance on whether or not long COVID should be considered a disability in the workplace.
Symptoms of Long COVID
Long COVID can definitely impact an employee’s ability to work if the symptoms are severe enough. Typical symptoms vary considerably, but can include:
- Ongoing exhaustion
- Shortness of breath and dizziness
- Heart palpitations and chest pains
- Chronic cough
- Difficulty concentrating or “brain fog”
- Loss of taste or smell
- Depression and anxiety
- Damage to internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain, skin, and kidneys
- Joint and muscle pain
When Is Long COVID Considered a Disability?
Under the new guidance, long COVID can be considered a disability under the ADA if it limits one or more of the patient’s basic life activities. The impairment can be mental or physical, and doesn’t need to be extremely severe, constant, or permanent to count as a disability.
The guidance states that long COVID isn’t always a disability, and that employees should undergo an individual assessment to determine how their symptoms impact their lives. This may continue to be a subjective issue, as health experts do not yet fully understand long COVID.
Rights of Long COVID Patients Under the ADA
Long COVID patients who qualify as disabled under the ADA are entitled to the same rights as other people with disabilities.
This means that most employers will be required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with long COVID, as long as it isn’t an undue burden on the employer.
This reasonable accommodation will look different depending on your condition and needs, since long COVID can affect people in many different ways. Some possible accommodations your employer might provide include:
- Allowing you to sit during tasks where you would normally stand and providing you with a chair and modified workstation if you find it too exhausting to remain standing.
- Allowing you extra time to do certain tasks if you have issues with concentration.
- Exempting you from manual tasks that are made difficult due to muscle or joint pain.
- Allowing adjusted shifts or time off work to attend medical appointments.
Are You Entitled to Protections Under the ADA? Ask an Employment Lawyer
Does your long COVID qualify as a disability, and should your employer provide reasonable accommodations? If you’re not sure, ask an employment lawyer.
Your employment attorney can help you determine your rights and ensure that your employer follows the law with respect to the ADA. Call us at 267-273-1054 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free, confidential consultation today.
The information provided here does not constitute legal advice. It is intended for general purposes only. If you have questions about a specific legal issue, you should speak to an attorney.