The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its Covid-19 technical assistance Dec. 14 to clarify under what circumstances Covid-19 may be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
EEOC’s new questions and answers focus broadly on Covid-19 and the definition of disability under Title I of the ADA and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, which both address employment discrimination. The updates also provide examples illustrating how an individual diagnosed with Covid-19 or a post-Covid condition could be considered to have a disability under the laws the EEOC enforces.
“This update to our Covid-19 information provides an additional resource for employees and employers facing the varied manifestations of Covid-19,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows. “Like effects from other diseases, effects from Covid-19 can lead to a disability protected under the laws the EEOC enforces. Workers with disabilities stemming from Covid-19 are protected from employment discrimination and may be eligible for reasonable accommodations.”
Key information includes:
- 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 a 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.
On July 26, 2021, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services issued Guidance on “Long Covid’ as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557, which focuses solely on long Covid. The EEOC technical assistance focuses more broadly on Covid-19 and does so in the context of Title I of the ADA and section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, which cover employment.