New Federal Guidance Classifies Long-Term COVID-19 Effects as Potential Disabilities

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July 26 was the 31st anniversary of the enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In an announcement associated with that anniversary, President Joe Biden’s administration indicated that long-term symptoms associated with COVID-19 infections can be considered disabilities under a range of federal laws, including the employment provisions of the ADA. These long-term symptoms can include respiratory issues, cognitive difficulties, fatigue, and chronic pain.

President Biden instructed federal agencies to determine whether such conditions rise to the level of protected disabilities in individual cases. While not every COVID-19 infection will meet this standard, if the symptoms result in a significant limitation of a major life activity or bodily system, they will qualify for protection under the ADA. Employers should recognize that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will consider such medical issues to fall under the ADA, and they should take steps to reasonably accommodate employees and applicants who suffer from lingering effects from the disease.

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