Employees suffering from “long-haul” COVID-19 may be disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in certain circumstances.
The EEOC’s guidance explains that COVID-19 may be a disability under the ADA if the virus results in an employee: (1) having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the individual’s major life activities, (2) having a record of an impairment (as would be likely with long-haul COVID), or (3) having been regarded as having such an impairment.
The EEOC’s guidance explains that an individual’s limitations from COVID-19 do not necessarily have to last any particular length of time to be substantially limiting and they do not have to be long-term. Even with episodic conditions from COVID-19 that come and go, COVID-19 is a disability if it substantially limits a major life activity when active.
The EEOC guidance points out, however, that COVID-19 is not always an actual disability under the ADA. An individualized assessment is still required to determine whether the employee’s condition meets one of the three definitions of disability under the ADA.
The EEOC’s guidance gives examples of the following conditions in which COVID-19 may substantially limit a major life activity: an individual diagnosed with “long COVID”; an individual who experiences heart issues that last, or are expected to last several months; an individual who initially receives supplemental oxygen for breathing issues and has shortness of breath, associated fatigue, and other virus-related effects that last, or are expected to last, for several months; an individual who experiences ongoing but intermittent multiple-day headaches, dizziness, brain fog, difficulty remembering or concentrating, which the employee’s doctor attributes to the virus. The EEOC’s guidance notes that individuals who experience symptoms of COVID that resolve in a few weeks or who are asymptomatic would not be substantially limited in a major life activity.