Some of our employees are sick with the coronavirus. Others have recovered but have lingering symptoms and are requesting accommodations. Is COVID-19 a disability?
Although being infected with COVID-19 is not considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is possible that lingering symptoms after the initial recovery ("long Covid") could be considered disabilities under the ADA.
Under the ADA, a disability is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, which includes working.
Short-term conditions do not qualify as disabilities under the ADA, so while COVID-19 itself is not as yet considered a disability, if lingering symptoms persist, those could be. (ex. lung impairment, heart damage, memory impairment, mental impairment)
Consider each employee individually to see if they have a disability, which is to be construed broadly. Then, engage in an interactive process to determine if any reasonable accommodations are available. Always consult with your legal counsel with deciding on reasonable accommodations.
Jack McCalmon and Leslie Zieren are attorneys with more than 50 years combined experience assisting employers in lowering their risk, including answering questions, like the one above, through the McCalmon Group's Best Practices Help Line. The Best Practice Help Line is a service of The McCalmon Group, Inc. Your organization may have access to The Best Practice Help Line or a similar service from another provider at no cost to you or at a discount. For questions about The Best Practice Help Line or what similar services are available to you via this Platform, call 888.712.7667.
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