U.S. Department of Health releases guidance on “Long COVID” as disability under ADA

Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 8:50 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The U.S. Department of Health and the U.S. Justice Department has issued new guidance for COVID-long haulers, noting the lingering symptoms could potentially meet the requirements of a disability.

The guidance comes as the agency noted a rise in people experiencing COVID symptoms months after they have tested negative. Researchers estimate about 10 percent of COVID patients become long haulers.

The new guidance explains long COVID could be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act if the condition substantially limits one or more major life activities.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act is very complicated and a nuanced law. It calls for more than a thumbs up or thumbs down analysis,” said Allen D. Arnold, Employment Attorney, “I don’t want anyone hearing this report to think ‘I’m protected’ - it doesn’t work like that.”

Employment Attorney Allen Arnold looked over the guidance Wednesday noting it’s limitation.

“Department of Justice issued an opinion July 26th that specifically does not oversee or govern private employers,” said Arnold.

The guidance does note that businesses, state, or local governments may have to make accommodations for long haulers, including giving a student additional time to take a test if they have brain fog or a business allowing a long hauler to sit while waiting for service instead of standing.

Arnold says even though it doesn’t include work guidance, it could be a helpful start in conversations with your boss.

“If anything, it gives a solid footing for long COVID victims to say I’m not making this up. The U.S. government says this is real,” said Arnold.

If you’re a long hauler, it’s been suggested to talk with your doctor first and document what you’ve been experiencing and have an open conversation with your boss about what you may need to do the job.

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