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U.S. EEOC Updates Technical Assistance Clarifying COVID-19 As Disability

On December 14, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its technical assistance by adding a new section that clarifies when illness caused by COVID-19 can be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act.

The technical assistance includes answers to questions about how illnesses caused by COVID-19 relate to the ADA definition of "disability" and what effects from COVID-19 may be considered a disability. It also discusses issues pertaining to reasonable accommodation by employers and circumstances around potential violations of the ADA.

Some highlights from the update:

  • In some cases, an applicant's or employee's COVID-19 may cause impairments that are themselves disabilities under the ADA, regardless of whether the initial case of COVID-19 itself constituted an actual disability.
  • An applicant or employee whose COVID-19 results in mild symptoms that resolve in a few weeks—with no other consequences—will not have an ADA disability that could make someone eligible to receive reasonable accommodation.
  • Applicants or employees with disabilities are not automatically entitled to reasonable accommodations under the ADA. They are entitled to a reasonable accommodation when their disability requires it, and the accommodation is not an undue hardship for the employer. But employers can choose to do more than the ADA requires.
  • An employer risks violating the ADA if it relies on myths, fears, or stereotypes about a condition and prevents an employee's return to work once the employee is no longer infectious and, therefore, medically able to return without posing a direct threat to others.

IAFC members and their human resource departments are encouraged to review the EEOC COVID-19 technical assistance and the joint U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Department of Justice guidance on "Long COVID" as a disability.

 

Ken LaSala is the IAFC's Director of Government Relations & Policy.

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