HHS and DOJ Issue Guidance on How Disability Nondiscrimination Laws Apply to Those Affected by “Long COVID”

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Some people who have had COVID-19 – even if the initial illness was mild – continue to experience symptoms that can last weeks or months after first developing COVID-19. People with this condition are sometimes called “long-haulers,” and the condition they have known as “long COVID” has continued to rise as a persistent and significant health issue.

On July 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (DOJ) jointly published guidance on how “long COVID” can qualify as a disability subject to the nondiscrimination requirements of the ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.  The guidance is on the HHS website and the DOJ website. Notably, the guidance states that “the so-called long COVID does not automatically qualify as a disability” and specifies that, as is the case with other disability determinations, an “individualized assessment is necessary” to determine if the person’s condition or any of its symptoms is a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

This guidance, along with a directory of resources available through programs funded by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), was shared by the White House as part of a comprehensive package of resources for people with long COVID, which you can find here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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