Does the ADA cover long COVID?
“Long COVID” is a symptom or set of symptoms that persist for more than four weeks after a COVID-19 diagnosis, according to the CDC. Ranging from fatigue to cognitive impairment, these effects can limit some people’s ability to work in the same way they could before they got the virus. Employers should understand the ADA implications related to absence management.
The EEOC has stated that under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), employers may need to accommodate qualifying employees with long COVID. So, when does the ADA cover long COVID? Key considerations while evaluating an employees’ ADA eligibility include:
- Does the employee’s condition meet the ADA’s three-part legal definition of a disability? That definition is: “An individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.”
- In December 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated it’s guidance to clarify in what circumstances that COVID-19 can cause or worsen certain conditions and qualify as an ADA-covered disability.
- The employer must engage the employee in collaborative discussions to determine reasonable accommodation when an ADA-defined disability affects the employee.
- If the employee’s impairment or need for accommodation isn’t immediately apparent, the employer may request additional documentation to substantiate the disability and need for accommodation. Medical documentation may be requested, but only to the extent that it establishes that the employee has a disability, an indication that the requested accommodation is related, and to determine if the accommodation(s) request would be an effective option. There are no specific guidelines or forms provided by the ADA, so each situation will be separate and unique.
- Despite the ADA’s broad interpretation of “disability” in favor of eligibility, it’s possible that some employees’ long COVID cases won’t qualify. The ADA mandates case-by-case assessments.
It’s helpful to understand how long COVID is present in patients. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), long COVID& could be a combination of symptoms like difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, fatigue, symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities, brain fog, cough, chest or stomach pain, headache, heart palpitations, joint or muscle pain, diarrhea, sleep problems, fever, lightheadedness, mood changes, change in smell or taste, and changes in menstrual period cycles. Additionally, any combination of these symptoms may, by themselves, not impact major life activities, but they may exacerbate an established condition that had been previously under control.
What Guardian is doing
Guardian continues to follow the process. It’s helpful to remember that as with all conditions, the actual diagnosis is not always the point. Keep in mind that you may never get the actual diagnosis. In the event of a request for an accommodation, Guardian ensures the interactive process is triggered. Through this process, facts are requested, available medical documentation is reviewed, the employees’ job functions are taken into consideration and decisions are made. If all goes well, the conclusion enables the employee and employer to continue to enjoy an effective employment relationship.