Post-Acute COVID-19 Syndrome, colloquially referred to as long COVID-19, occurs when an individual who had COVID-19 continues to experience ongoing symptoms for months afterward. Individuals with long COVID-19 might have difficulty working in the same way they did before and may be entitled to workplace accommodations so they can do their job. Even if these employees do not think of themselves as having a disability, they may meet the Americans with Disabilities Act definition.
Under the ADA, an employee is entitled to accommodations if they meet the definition of an individual with a disability and are qualified for the job with the reasonable accommodation. An individual with a disability is a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits major life activities, has a record of such an impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment. Whether a particular condition is a disability as defined by the ADA requires a case-by-case determination. However, employers are free to provide accommodations even if someone doesn’t meet the definition of disability – and they must provide accommodations if they do meet it, absent undue hardship.
The U.S. Department of Labor stated that although not an exhaustive list, accommodations for long COVID-19 could include: providing or modifying equipment or devices, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, and/or adjusting or modifying examinations, training materials or policies.
The U.S. Department of Labor also stated that employers do not have to: remove essential job functions, lower production standards, provide personal need items such as hearing aids and wheelchairs, provide any accommodation that creates an undue hardship, or provide an employee’s preferred accommodation as long as the employer provides an effective accommodation.
If an employee requests a reasonable accommodation, an employer can ask for limited medical documentation to show that the employee is covered under the ADA if it isn’t obvious that he/she has a disability or needs an accommodation, and may also ask questions to help clarify why the employee needs an accommodation and to explore alternative accommodations, if necessary.
For more information on long COVID-19, see the U.S. DOL’s webpage with resources regarding COVID-19 and long COVID-19 for workers, employers, youth and policymakers.