For more information please call  800.727.2766


Federal Guidance on Long-Haul Covid and the ADA

At President Biden’s direction, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued guidance for individuals experiencing extended symptoms from COVID-19. Noting that while many individuals who get COVID recover within just a couple of weeks, some individuals “may have new or recurring symptoms at a later time.” This condition is called “long COVID.” Recognizing that people with long COVID deal with persistent and significant health issues that may qualify as a disability, the DOJ and HHS created new guidance on obligations triggered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act, and the Affordable Care Act. The guidance applies only to ADA provisions related to state and local governments and places of public accommodation.

In defining long COVID, the agencies point out that the symptoms may last weeks or months and can worsen with physical or mental activity. Identified symptoms include tiredness or fatigue, difficulty thinking or concentrating, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, headache; dizziness when standing, heart palpitations, chest pain, cough, joint or muscle pain, depression or anxiety, fever, loss of taste or smell, and organ damage.

If any of these symptoms “substantially limits one or more major life activities,” then long COVID may be considered a disability. The definition of major life activities encompasses a wide range of activities impacting day-to-day life. To qualify as a disability, an individualized assessment of the symptoms and their impact on major life activities is required. The guidance does provide some examples of when these symptoms may qualify as a disability. It also includes possible reasonable modifications or accommodations for individuals who are disabled by long-COVID. While the guidance is limited to the government and places of public accommodation, it is worth noting the term “disability” is interpreted similarly by the courts when applied to private employers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has not yet issued guidance on this issue.