Long COVID19: What Employers Should Know
By now, you have heard of long COVID, long haul COVID, post acute COVID, or chronic COVID. Get ready for long COVID to impact the workplace. The EEOC has recently recognized that “long COVID” may be a disability under the ADA. We do not have the EEOC guidance yet, but this information from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is a good indicator of what we can expect.
IS IT A DISABILITY? Let’s take a look at what constitutes a disability under the ADA. A disability must substantially limit a major life activity. The duty to accommodate an employee with a disability arises when an individual needs help to perform the essential functions of their job. The accommodation cannot place an undue hardship on the employer’s business. OK I put that out there because the list of long COVID impairments is, well, long. Having long COVID issues may not rise to the level of a disability needing a workplace accommodation. But it might…
HOW DO WE KNOW? Ask. The interactive process is not only a legal requirement but an opportunity to gather information to make the best decisions. Gather medical information and make an individual assessment, as with any disability. Long COVID syndrome is new but the law and compliance expectations are the same.
WHAT WOULD AN ACCOMMODATION LOOK LIKE? Because long COVID has so many symptoms, the accommodations vary widely. Some people have one symptom, some have several and not all conditions are permanent. Brain fog or concentration is one area where an employer might provide more time for tasks. If an employee has fatigue, something as simple as providing a seat might be enough. For employees with dizziness or balance issues, allowing a service animal in the workplace could be an accommodation.