Long Covid and the ADA

Although many people with COVID-19 improve weeks after contracting the virus, others continue to experience symptoms for months, or may suffer new or recurring symptoms after the virus load is undetectable in them. This can happen to anyone who contracted  COVID-19, even if the initial illness was mild. This condition is known as “Long COVID.”

What is Long COVID ?  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Long COVID refers to a range of new or ongoing symptoms that can last weeks or months after infection and that can worsen with physical or mental activity.

The symptoms of Long COVID can include:

  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Tiredness or fatigue
  • Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes called “brain fog”)
  • Shortness of breath  
  • Headache
  • Dizziness on standing
  • Fast-beating or pounding heart (known as heart palpitations)
  • Cough
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Depression or anxiety

Is Long COVID a disability?

Yes, if the condition substantially limits one or more major life activity. President Biden recently announced guidance on this new ADA qualification, which has been supported by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), Health and Human Services (“HHS”)Department of Labor (“DOL”), and other federal agencies to offer protections to employees.

What Does this Mean for Employers?

Long COVID symptoms may limit an employee’s  physical work performance and could affect mental capabilities. If an employee indicates an inability to perform a task due to Long COVID, the employee is simply  requesting an accommodation. The employer should conduct the interactive process, as the employer would for any other accommodation request.

Employers should keep in mind that Long COVID is not always a disability. It must  substantially limit one or more major life activity, as required by the ADA.