COVID-19 May Qualify as Disability Under ADA: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

By Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Jack Phillips
Breaking News Reporter
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter at The Epoch Times based in New York.
December 15, 2021 Updated: December 15, 2021

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its guidance on COVID-19, saying employees who have had the disease might be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

COVID-19 cases that persist for more than a few weeks, along with impairments caused by the virus, can be classified as disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to the agency.  It, however, stipulated that employers need to review whether the law applies to a worker on a case-by-case basis.

“An employer may choose to include in such a notice all the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]-listed medical conditions that may place people at higher risk of serious illness if they contract COVID-19, provide instructions about who to contact, and explain that the employer is willing to consider on a case-by-case basis any requests from employees who have these or other medical conditions,” the EEOC wrote.

The ADA protects employees from being fired or facing other penalties due to their disabilities. The law also requires workplaces to provide accommodations that allow disabled workers to perform their jobs.

“An individual who had COVID-19 develops heart inflammation. This inflammation itself may be an impairment that substantially limits a major bodily function, such as the circulatory function, or other major life activity, such as lifting,” the EEOC said. It did not mention potential vaccine side-effects in its update.

Asymptomatic or mild COVID-19 cases cannot be considered disabilities under EEOC, according to the federal agency, because they don’t limit activities such as walking or lifting items. The law does apply to so-called “long COVID,” which, according to some studies, symptoms can persist for months, the guidance update said.

Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services released guidance on how to address “long COVID” as a disability that falls under the ADA.

“Long COVID can be a disability under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557 if it substantially limits one or more major life activities,” the agency said.

Employees seeking workplace accommodations over their COVID-19 symptoms need to provide the proper documentation to their employer, including doctors’ notes, according to the agency.

In a previous update, the EEOC noted that it “has received many inquiries from employers and employees about the type of authorization granted by the … Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the administration of COVID-19 vaccines,” adding that the Department of Justice issued a memo stipulating it will “not prohibit public or private entities from imposing vaccination requirements for a vaccine that is subject” to emergency authorization.