The federal government has determined that Covid-19 survivors with lingering symptoms can be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. People with long-term Covid symptoms such as fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headaches, depression, and brain fog were protected by federal law as a physical or mental disability. The Justice Department and Health and Human Services Department made the announcement on the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The guidelines are an important step for medical patients struggling to obtain insurance to cover their medical treatments associated with the disease. Employees struggling with Covid are also to be accommodated under the ADA. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is expected to put out guidelines on how those with long-term Covid are to be accommodated under the ADA. The ADA requires employers with 15 or more employees to make reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities.
What Would Covid Discrimination Entail?
Covid-based discrimination requires discrimination based on a disability from being infected with Covid. The most obvious discrimination may involve terminating, disciplining, or demoting an employee because he or she had Covid, refuses to come into the office because of Covid, or is suffering from a Covid symptom. In addition, refusing to make a reasonable accommodate made by a Covid employee could be grounds for an ADA based lawsuit.
What Kinds of Workplace Accommodations Would Be Expected for Persons With Long-Term Covid Symptoms?
Accommodations for employees with long-term Covid disabilities could include a range of potential options. The simplest and most obvious solution would be time off for medical purposes. Remote work is also an option especially if the employee is infected with Covid and needs to be isolated from others.
Further accommodations may be required based on the exact symptom that the employee is experiencing. For instance, an employee who has “brain fog” may require a quiet workspace or noise cancellation devices. An employee with shortness of breath can be exempted from physically demanding tasks or the usage or removal of masks.
What If the Employee Refused to Take Reasonable Measures to Protect Themselves Against Covid?
Many Americans have refused to comply with simple precautions against Covid, such as refusal to wear a mask, stay at home when feasible, or refusing to take the vaccine. However, the current federal guidelines for Covid discrimination do not make any exceptions for those who were foolish enough to get themselves sick.
So while an employee who refuses to get vaccinated “may have had it coming,” firing that employee for getting sick is a potential violation of the ADA. Furthermore, statements that reference to that employee getting sick could be evidence of an intent to discriminate.
Do I Need to Hire an Attorney for a Disability Discrimination Case?
If you or your loved one has been discriminated against on the basis of a disability at work, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local employment attorney for further legal advice.