EEOC ADDS NEW SECTION CLARIFYING WHEN COVID-19 MAY BE A DISABILITY, UPDATING TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

12/14/2021 9:20 AM | Alex Clark

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its COVID-19 technical assistance today adding a new section to clarify under what circumstances COVID-19 may be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 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.

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 (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued Guidance on ‘Long COVID’ as a Disability Under the ADA, Section 504, and Section 1557. The DOJ/HHS Guidance focuses solely on long COVID. This new 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.

To assist the public, the EEOC has updated its guidance on employment and COVID-19 approximately 20 times throughout the pandemic.
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