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Ask Leslie: Is A COVID-19 Infection A Disability?

By Leslie Zieren, The McCalmon Group, Inc.

Dear Leslie:

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?

Signed: Wayne

 

Dear Wayne:

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.

If you have a question that you would like Jack McCalmon or Leslie Zieren to consider for this column, please submit it to ask@mccalmon.com. Please note that The McCalmon Group cannot guarantee that your question will be answered. Answers are based on generally accepted risk management best practices. They are not, and should not be considered, legal advice. If you need an answer immediately or desire legal advice, please call your local legal counsel.

 

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